Lawyer jailed six years for criminal breach of trust of $1.5m

A lawyer who misappropriated $1.49 million from his firm's client account was jailed for six years on Monday.

Tan Tiong Hian alias Raymond Tan, 44, who faced 31 charges of criminal breach of trust and one of forgery, pleaded guilty to 10 charges of criminal breach of trust. The amounts were between $56,270 and $128,160.

A district court heard that Tan sought the help of then lawyer Siow Jit Thong to act as a signatory to facilitate his operations as required by Legal Profession (Solicitors' Accounts) Rules.

Mr Siow was not directly involved in the dealings of Tan's firm nor did he know who the clients were. He even went to the extent of pre-signing the applications to the bank for banker's cheques when he was outstation.

Investigations showed that Tan would rely on the pre-signed applications to draw upon the funds held in the client account. The cheques were paid to 11 unauthorised recipients on 31 separate occasions between June 2009 and November 2010, involving a total of $1.49 million.

Neither Mr Siow nor any of the recipients knew that the monies were provided to them illegally. Among the recipients were Tan's wife, his mistress Tong Qi and Ms Tong's mother.

Forty-eight claimants who claimed $1.59 million against the firm had been paid $1.4 million, leaving a loss of $178,672.

Tan, whose sentence was backdated to Aug 29 last year, could have been jailed for up to 10 years and fined on each charge. A lawyer for 15 years, he was struck off the rolls last August.

Tan had been running T.H. Tan Raymond & Co as a sole proprietorship since September 2005. The firm was re-constituted as a partnership in May 2010.

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