SINGAPORE - Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, the lawyer who went missing along with $33.2 million in funds held in escrow by his firm, was handed fresh charges of criminal breach of trust and forgery on Monday (24 February), bringing the total number of charges to 38.
On Monday, Ong appeared in court via video link to receive his new charges. The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutors Nicholas Khoo and Kang Jia Hui, said that the Commercial Affairs Department was still conducting investigations and sought six weeks adjournment to finalise affairs.
The new criminal breach of trust charges faced by the managing partner of law firm JLC Advisors, in connection to the missing funds, amount to a total of $33,839,674.97 that was allegedly misappropriated
Ong allegedly went missing with the money, which belonged to a JLC client, Allied Technologies, in May last year. The funds had been held in escrow by JLC under an agreement made in 2017.
He allegedly siphoned the money on 11 occasions from the year the agreement was made. Between 11 October 2017 and 27 August 2018, Ong, 42, is said to have committed criminal breach of trust as an attorney while he was entrusted with the monies as a solicitor of JLC Advisors. The monies were the balance equity consideration for the sale of Allied Machineries (Shanghai) held in an escrow account.
On a cheque dated 15 April 2019, Ong allegedly forged Vincent Lim Puay Chong’s signature on a cheque with the stated amount of $33,153,416.56 to prove to Allied Technologies that the JLC Advisors still held the monies. Lim is a senior partner at JLC Advisors.
Jeffrey Ong's alleged run from Singapore
Court documents tendered in previous hearings detailed how Ong allegedly fled to Malaysia after being pressed to account for the unauthorised withdrawals of client monies by the partners in his law firm on 13 May last year. He arranged for a person known as "Nicholas" to drive him to Malaysia in a private-hire car.
Ong allegedly confided in his wife of his plan to flee and headed to Malaysia via Tuas Checkpoint.
On 16 May, Ong became uncontactable after he threw away his mobile phone. He used a China SIM card on a new mobile phone which "Dennis" got him. He also used the stolen Malaysian passport of a Chinese man who had a similar age and face.
The Singapore police received a report about Ong's alleged criminal breach of trust on 21 May. A warrant of arrest was issued four days later and Ong was arrested by Malaysian police on 29 May last year in his hotel room.
Ong was repatriated the next day and first charged on 1 June with one count of cheating by deceiving CCJ Investments into believing that Suite Development had entered into a loan agreement with it.
CCJ Investments allegedly disbursed $6 million, of which about $3.3 million was used to refinance Suite Development’s mortgage loan and about $2.7 million was deposited into JLC’s client’s account.
On 13 June, Ong was given another eight charges of forging eight documents in order to cheat CCJ Investments into disbursing $6 million. These documents include a Deed of Charge over Shares, a Deed of Guarantee, a Mortgage (relating to three shophouses in Tanjong Katong Road), a Director’s Resolution, a Shareholder’s Resolution, and an Instrument of Transfer.
One was handed his first charge involving criminal breach of trust as an attorney, and three of forgery for the purpose of cheating, on 13 October last year.
Ong is accused of dishonestly misappropriating US$4,851,289.15 (S$6,648,352.19) from a Standard Chartered USD bank account while acting as a solicitor of JLC Advisors, on 23 October 2017.
He allegedly forged a statement of accounts for the months of April, May and June 2018, on 7 August last year for JLC Advisors’ Standard Chartered USD bank account. It falsely stated that some $4.8 million in respect of the Airtrust (Singapore) Limited and Wrangwell Limited Settlement was still present and unused in JLC’s bank account. The funds were held in escrow by JLC.
Ong is represented by lawyer Jennifer Sia. He will next appear in court on 7 April.
The maximum penalty for criminal breach of trust as an attorney is life imprisonment, or a jail term of up to 20 years, and a fine. If convicted of forging a document for the purpose of cheating, he faces up to 10 years jail and a fine. Forgery carries a jail term of up to 15 years and a fine.