Ex-lawyer jailed for offences including misappropriating more than $15k

G.B. Vasudeven was a director at the Advaitha Law Corporation when he committed the offences in 2016.
G.B. Vasudeven was a director at the Advaitha Law Corporation when he committed the offences in 2016.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A man was working as a lawyer when he misappropriated cash totalling more than $15,000 that had been entrusted to him.

G. B. Vasudeven, now 53, was a director at Advaitha Law Corporation when he committed the offences in 2016.

The Singaporean is now unemployed after he was struck off the rolls in August 2019.

On Thursday, he was sentenced to two years and three months' jail after he pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving $10,700. The former lawyer also admitted to one count of forgery.

Two other counts of criminal breach of trust involving the rest of the money misappropriated were considered during sentencing.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Muhamad Imaduddien and Bjorn Tan stated in court documents that Vasudeven was called to the Singapore Bar in 1994.

Some time in January 2015, businessman Suresh Kumar R., 43, borrowed $100,000 from a man identified as Mr Shanmuganathan Sinniah, 59.

Mr Suresh repaid $17,500 but could not come up with more cash later as his business venture was not doing well.

Mr Shanmuganathan engaged Vasudeven's services and the then lawyer called Mr Suresh in early June 2016.

Referring to Mr Shanmuganathan as "Shan", the DPPs said: "The accused informed Suresh that pursuant to Shan's instructions, he had drafted an investment agreement with details to repay Shan for the monies disbursed to him.

"Suresh did not question why it was an investment agreement, as opposed to a loan agreement, as he wanted to resolve the matter amicably with Shan."

The agreement stated that Mr Shanmuganathan had provided an investment amount of $100,000 which Mr Suresh required for an events project.

This sum, together with an investment return of $35,000, was to be repaid on or before June 30, 2016.

On June 13 that year, Mr Suresh went to Vasudeven's office and signed the agreement. Mr Suresh, however, failed to make the payment by June 30.

As a result, on July 13, 2016, Vasudeven issued a letter of demand to Mr Suresh, saying that unless he paid $135,000 to his client, legal proceedings would begin.

Seventeen days later, Vasudeven acted on Mr Shanmuganathan's instructions and filed a writ of summons against Mr Suresh.

A default judgement of $135,000 against Mr Suresh was awarded to Mr Shanmuganathan the following month.

Vasudeven later told Mr Suresh that Mr Shanmuganathan had given instructions to start bankruptcy proceedings against Mr Suresh. Vasudeven also offered to help Mr Suresh in handling the matter.

But nothing was filed against Mr Suresh at the High Court.

On Sept 21, 2016, Vasudeven told Mr Suresh to make a payment of $6,000, claiming that these monies would be held by the High Court before they were forwarded to Mr Shanmuganathan.

Acting on Vasudeven's instructions, Mr Suresh later deposited $5,700 into the then lawyer's personal bank account. Vasudeven used the cash for his personal expenses.

The court heard that Mr Shanmuganathan was not aware of Mr Suresh's payment of $5,700 and did not receive the amount from Vasudeven.

On Oct 3, 2016, Vasudeven lied to Mr Suresh, claiming that he had used his client's monies to hand over $30,000 to the High Court on Mr Suresh's behalf.

He claimed that he had done so to "quickly" resolve the matter and told Mr Suresh to return the $30,000 to him.

Vasudeven also forged a requisition document which purportedly bore the Supreme Court's seal and got Mr Suresh to sign it.

The DPPs said the requisition document was never filed in court and Vasudeven did not make the purported $30,000 payment to the court on Mr Suresh's behalf.

Despite this, Vasudeven continued to chase the unsuspecting Mr Suresh for the amount.

Vasudeven continued with his lies and later told Mr Suresh that a police report had been lodged over the $30,000.

The prosecutors said: "On Oct 24, 2016, the accused told Suresh that he was meeting an investigation officer at the police station the next day and needed to show a repayment of $10,000 to the clients."

Mr Suresh believed this and sought the assistance of a friend who managed to transfer $5,000 to Vasudeven, who then used the money for his own expenses.

Mr Suresh finally became suspicious when he did not receive any documents from the court.

On Nov 2, 2016, he called the High Court and found out that there was nothing filed against him there. He alerted the police later that day.

For each count of criminal breach of trust, an offender can be jailed for up to 20 years and fined.