Ex-lawyer faces three lawsuits on top of criminal charges

A former lawyer of a global law firm, who has been accused of criminal intimidation, is now facing at least three lawsuits with claims totalling about US$7.38 million (S$10.12 million).

The latest suit was lodged earlier this month and throws more light on the seemingly lucrative deals Then Feng, 37, struck while working at leading law firm Walkers.

Around February last year, Then was introduced to Mr Andrew Ling, director of two investment services firms - Providence Asset Management and another called 5 and 2 - according to court documents seen by The Straits Times.

A mutual friend said Then could arrange for Walkers to provide services for facilitating business deals.

Meanwhile, Then had incorporated a company called Walkers Professional Services (WPS), a name allegedly chosen for its similarity to the Walkers law firm.

In mid-2018, Then told Mr Ling of a bank in Curacao that was available for purchase at US$8.5 million and that Walkers could represent the buyers. Then said he would also be a partner in the new venture.

He used his Walkers law firm e-mail account to correspond with the Curacao party, who later agreed to sell two banks for US$8.5 million. Last October, around US$5.5 million was transferred to WPS in relation to the potential purchases.

Mr Ling learnt only later that WPS was not related to Walkers. While one of the purchases was completed, the other fell through. Providence and 5 and 2 lodged a civil suit this month against Then, his wife and WPS. They want the unused sum of US$2.5 million refunded.

They claim Then had "confessed" that he owned and controlled WPS when Mr Ling demanded the return of the outstanding funds. Around last month, he allegedly said he no longer had the money due to them.

Providence and 5 and 2 claim the funds had been "misappropriated" and used for Then's own purposes.

They also allege Then made "fraudulent misrepresentations" to induce them to transfer the funds.

Then has faced other claims of misrepresentation.

In March, two investors filed a case against him claiming over $1 million in loss of investment and profit, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported. Then denies he misled them into making the investment.

In another suit, forex trader Peh Wei Siang is claiming US$4.13 million, after he was allegedly misled into putting money into WPS' escrow account to be used to buy a bank in the United States. It includes money allegedly owed to a forex trading platform Mr Peh founded.

Mr Peh, who also believed Then was acting for him as a Walkers lawyer, contacted the law firm directly about his money after learning in January or February this year that Then had left the law firm. Then resigned last year and did not renew his licence for practice, which expired in April, said Zaobao.

In his counterclaim, Then said he "did not at any time represent to Mr Peh or (the forex platform) that he was dealing with them in his capacity as a lawyer or employee of Walkers", court documents showed.

Walkers said it had no relation to WPS, nor records showing that it was providing escrow agent services to Mr Peh. It added that the statements of account Mr Peh received from Then were forgeries.

Mr Peh claims that Then made fraudulent representations and should return his money.

On Feb 21, Then and three others - one Swiss national and two British citizens - allegedly visited Mr Peh in Yio Chu Kang to threaten him, purportedly saying: "You are easy to locate. Your family is in danger."

On March 15, the group allegedly visited Mr Peh again, telling him to cease legal action or risk harm to his family. The warning, said court documents, was delivered "with the intent to cause death".

Then and his alleged Swiss accomplice were each charged with two counts of criminal intimidation last month. The case will be heard again in September.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2019, with the headline 'Ex-lawyer faces three lawsuits on top of criminal charges'. Subscribe