SINGAPORE — Deputy speaker of Parliament Christopher de Souza, a lawyer by profession, has been found guilty of professional misconduct by a disciplinary tribunal.
The Straits Times reported on Tuesday (6 December) that the Member of Parliament for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was found guilty of not making full and frank disclosure to the court when he was aware that his client, Amber Compounding Pharmacy and Amber Laboratories, had breached the conditions of a search order.
The tribunal found that de Souza, 46, had instead helped his client prepare and file an affidavit which did not exhibit certain documents that would have revealed the client had breached conditions.
Filed affidavit that did not reveal breaches
According to The Straits Times, the case involved Amber obtaining several documents through a search order in 2018.
The company used some of these documents to make reports to investigative agencies, and this breached its undertaking not to use them without further order.
According to the report, an internal email showed de Souza was aware of Amber's breaches even before his firm Lee & Lee took over the suit.
Despite knowing this, he helped Amber representative Samuel Sudesh Thaddaeus file an affidavit on 28 January 2019 that did not reveal the breaches.
“The crux of the matter is what the respondent should have done upon discovery of the use of the documents and information by Amber, and specifically whether he should have informed the court and opposing counsel of the breach of the undertakings,” the disciplinary tribunal, comprised of Senior Counsel N. Sreenivasan and Pradeep Pillai, stated in its report published on Monday.
The two-member tribunal said de Souza had known there was a duty to disclose the prior use of the documents and information.
“We are of the view that the failure to make such full and frank disclosure amounted to suppression of evidence by Amber, and by filing the supporting affidavit, the respondent was a party to and assisted in such suppression,” said the tribunal.
Disciplinary sanction before Court of Three Judges
On one of the five charges brought against him by the Law Society, the tribunal found that there was cause of sufficient gravity for de Souza to face disciplinary sanction before the Court of Three Judges.
The highest disciplinary body for the legal profession, the Court of Three Judges has the power to suspend or disbar lawyers.
The other four charges brought against de Souza were dismissed.
De Souza’s lawyers from WongPartnership told The Straits Times that there was "no question that Mr de Souza had acted with utmost integrity in the conduct of this matter at all times", noting that four of the five charges were dismissed.
“As regards the remaining charge, this is a matter now before the Court of Three Judges, and it is not appropriate for us to comment on the merits at this juncture. Suffice to say that we will strenuously resist it and argue that it too should be dismissed,” said Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng and associate Calvin Ong of WongPartnership.
Complaint from Court of Appeal
According to The Straits Times, disciplinary proceedings against de Souza had began from a letter issued on behalf of the Court of Appeal two years ago on 9 September 2020, by the deputy registrar of the Supreme Court to the Law Society of Singapore.
An independent inquiry committee found that de Souza had breached his paramount duty to the court, and recommended a $2,000 fine.
Disagreeing with the findings of the inquiry committee, The Law Society council applied in 2021 to Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon for the appointment of a disciplinary tribunal.
The tribunal heard oral testimony over five days between 6 and 12 April this year, with closing submissions were made on Aug 29.
Finding sufficient cause in only one of the five charges that The Law Society brought against de Souza, the tribunal accepted that he had tried to persuade the client to make full disclosure, but added that his own failure to make such disclosure was "not exculpated by the conduct of the client".
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