Lawyer disbarred for taking advantage of assistant

Mr Ismail Atan was cleared in 2015 of the charge of molesting his assistant, after she accepted his offer to compound the matter for $3,000 in compensation and an apology letter. The Court of Three Judges said the letter was an admission by Mr Ismail
Mr Ismail Atan was cleared in 2015 of the charge of molesting his assistant, after she accepted his offer to compound the matter for $3,000 in compensation and an apology letter. The Court of Three Judges said the letter was an admission by Mr Ismail that the woman's accusation was essentially true.ST FILE PHOTO

He lured the married woman to a hotel room on the pretext of gathering evidence for trial

A lawyer who lured his assistant to a hotel room and took sexual advantage of her was yesterday struck off the rolls for his "egregious" conduct by a Court of Three Judges, who said he was not fit to be a member of the profession.

Mr Ismail Atan, 45, had maintained his innocence, contending that the woman made up the allegations because her request for a more senior, higher-paying position in the firm was rejected.

But the court noted that despite portraying himself as the innocent victim of a "destructive colleague", the lawyer of 20 years was content to "sit idly by" when she sent out a caustic mass e-mail six days later, pouring scorn on him for sexually harassing her.

And after he was charged with molesting the 28-year-old married woman, he signed a letter unreservedly apologising for "unwarranted physical contact", as part of a deal to compound the matter.

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The court said the apology letter was an admission by Mr Ismail that what the woman had said was essentially true.

While the offence did not involve dishonesty, Mr Ismail's conduct showed "a defect of character so serious that it renders (him) unfit to be a member of this honourable profession", said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, delivering the decision of the court, which also comprised Judges of Appeal Andrew Phang and Steven Chong.

 

In 2013, Mr Ismail was representing a client who sued VIP Hotel in Balmoral Crescent after she slipped and fell in the lobby. On the pretext of gathering evidence for the trial, he told his assistant to go with him to the hotel, so they could pose as a couple to avoid suspicion.

  • Rogue lawyers who were struck off the rolls

    March 2017: S.K. Kumar, whose misconduct included misleading the court and wasting its time by being absent from hearings or seeking unnecessary adjournments. Once, he asked a client to get a medical certificate to cover up the fact that he had failed to inform the client to turn up in court.

    May 2015: Gopinath Pillai, for forging court documents and lying about the status of a lawsuit to fob off a client chasing him for updates. 

    May 2015: Ong Teck Ghee, who borrowed $1.3 million from two clients for purported investments in business projects, even though professional rules forbid him from taking loans from clients. 

    August 2010: Zulkifli Mohd Amin, who fled Singapore after allegedly siphoning off more than $10 million from his firm. 

    October 2008: Nor'ain Abu Bakar and Peter Chua, who defrauded a court into wrongly paying out $4.27 million to a company that was not entitled to the money. 

    November 2007: David Rasif, who disappeared in June 2006 with $11.3 million of clients' money. He was last seen in Bangkok, Thailand.

He later told her he had booked a room and told her to wait inside while he continued to investigate. But he then followed her inside and grabbed her, told her he liked her and suggested they have an affair.

Despite her attempts to push him away, he held on to her and tried to kiss her. He also rubbed himself against her and forced her to kiss him before agreeing to let her leave.

She resigned after her request to be transferred was rejected. She also made a police report.

Mr Ismail was cleared of the molestation charge in 2015, after she accepted his offer to compound the matter for $3,000 in compensation and a letter of apology.

The Attorney-General then complained to the Law Society about his conduct.

A two-member disciplinary tribunal found him guilty of grossly improper conduct, breaching professional rules and conduct unbecoming of a lawyer.

The tribunal found his case serious enough to be referred to the Court of Three Judges, which can suspend or disbar lawyers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2017, with the headline 'Lawyer disbarred for taking advantage of assistant'. Print Edition | Subscribe