Ex-lawyer guilty of practising while disbarred

Former lawyer Loo yesterday pleaded guilty to four charges under the Legal Profession Act after 24 days of trial.
Former lawyer Loo yesterday pleaded guilty to four charges under the Legal Profession Act after 24 days of trial.ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

He had been struck off rolls in 2012 after complaints, but gave legal advice to Chinese nationals the following year

A former lawyer who holds the dubious record of having the most complaints filed against him was convicted yesterday of providing legal advice to some Chinese nationals when he was not authorised to do so.

Leonard Loo Peng Chee threw in the towel after 24 days of his court hearing. He had contested charges of acting as an advocate and solicitor, abetting in a conspiracy with a man to solicit clients on his behalf, and abetting a Chinese national to intentionally obstruct the course of justice.

The 45-year-old had had 15 years of experience when he was struck off the rolls in 2012 by the Court of Three Judges for professional misconduct.

The Law Society had received 14 complaints from his clients and the courts, covering at least 86 instances of misconduct, including dishonesty. The litany of complaints against him included his being ill-prepared to argue his cases, being late for court hearings or not showing up, and not complying with court directions.

Earlier this week, Loo indicated his wish to plead guilty. Yesterday, he admitted to four charges under the Legal Profession Act (LPA).

Even though he was not authorised to provide legal advice by then, in November 2013, he provided legal advice and prepared legal representations to the authorities for Ms Zhao Kejing, 24, Ms Luo Guangzhen, 24, and Ms Luo Chunyan, 26, and legal advice to Ms Xie Xin Xin, 27. Three other charges, including another under the LPA, will be taken into consideration when he is sentenced later.

Loo ran a business called Qilin Immigration and Manpower Services Bureau to carry out labour contracting services in immigration, visa, manpower and employment matters.

A district court heard that Ms Zhao was arrested for vice-related activities on Nov 20, 2013, and was referred to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) for repatriation. Her landlord gave her Loo's contact number and said Loo was a lawyer who could help her.

The next day, when Loo met Ms Zhao at a bar in Balestier, her friend asked if he was a lawyer but he did not reply.

He then asked about Ms Zhao's case. She told him she hoped he could help her get her passport back from the authorities without a ban on her return to Singapore.

Loo said he could help her file an appeal, which would cost $800.

After Ms Zhao had engaged Loo, he met her at the Police Cantonment Complex and showed her the appeal letter, which she signed and submitted .

They went to ICA to apply for an extension of her special pass. There, he asked her for $800, but she had only $400 with her. She gave it to him. She paid another $200 later, when he asked for the balance of his fees.

Loo also gave legal advice and drafted letters for Ms Luo Guangzhen and Ms Luo Chunyan, who were arrested for vice-related activities on Nov 19, 2013.

The duo's friend, Ms Xie, who went along to meet Loo, sought his advice on how to get her social visit pass extended. Loo said he would write to the ICA but told her it was unlikely that she would get a one-month extension.

She paid him $800, but later got the money back when she decided not to engage him.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Anandan Bala and Quek Jing Feng sought an adjournment to make written submissions on sentencing.

District Judge Jasvender Kaur adjourned the case to Aug 12.

The maximum penalty is a $25,000 fine and six months' jail for each charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-lawyer guilty of practising while disbarred'. Print Edition | Subscribe