Lawyer given 2-year suspension, fine for transferring $2.7 million without proper checks

PHOTO: ST GRAPHICS

SINGAPORE - A lawyer of 18 years who failed to do necessary checks before carrying out a series of fund transfers totalling about US$2 million (S$2.7 million) was suspended from practice for two years and fined $100,000 on Friday (Sept 29).

The punishment for professional misconduct was handed down to Mr Allen Chan Chun Hwee by a Court of Three Judges, the highest disciplinary body for the legal profession.

In 2008, Mr Chan, the sole proprietor of C H Chan & Co, transferred more than US$200,000 on the instructions of a foreign entity called the Institute of Business Management and Financial Services.

In 2011, another US$1.8 million was transferred for another foreign entity called Investment Suisse.

Mr Chan deducted a 5 per cent cut of the remittances as his fees.

No further transfers were made after he was asked by the bank why the clients were effecting these transactions through him instead of directly.

In 2014, an anonymous complaint was lodged with the Law Society, accusing him of aiding money-laundering activities.

The Law Society, represented by Mr S.H. Almenoar, brought charges against Mr Chan for failing to verify the identities of the people behind the entities and failing to obtain satisfactory evidence as to the nature and purpose of his clients' business relationships with the recipients.

After he pleaded guilty to breaching professional conduct rules, a disciplinary tribunal found the case serious enough to be referred to the court to mete out punishment.

On Friday, the court, led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, said the breach was not merely a technical one but "a substantial breach by a solicitor who allowed his client to... take advantage of the cloak of respectability that was afforded by having the solicitor effect those transfers".

The court noted that Mr Chan carried out the transactions without asking why he was being asked to do so "when this question cried out to be answered".

Due to a procedural issue, the court took into account only the 2011 transactions, from which Mr Chan earned fees of about US$90,000.