Ex-lawyer who deceived businessman ordered to pay back $8m

SINGAPORE - A former lawyer who deceived a businessman into transferring a total of $8 million to his own company has been ordered by the court to repay the sum.

Then Feng, a Singaporean who was then working at global law firm Walkers, had told businessman Andrew Ling that the firm would act for him in a proposed deal to buy an offshore bank.

Mr Ling then deposited money meant for the purchase into the bank account of a company called Walkers Professional Services (WPS).

In reality, WPS was a company set up by Then and was not affiliated with Walkers.

On Nov 9, the Singapore International Commercial Court ordered Then to pay US$5.27 million (S$7.13 million) and $1.22 million as damages to Mr Ling's two investment management firms - Providence Asset Management, and 5 and 2.

Mr Ling, who is represented by Mr Daniel Chia of Morgan Lewis Stamford, had sued Then through the firms to recover the two sums transferred to WPS in 2018.

The businessman wanted to buy a bank and use its licence to set up a cryptocurrency-friendly bank in Singapore.

He said he had relied on Then's false representations when he deposited the money, as he was led to believe that the bank account was used by Walkers to hold money in escrow.

Then later told him that US$4 million was used to buy a bank in Africa, when the actual purchase price was €130,000 (S$200,018).

When Mr Ling asked for the remaining money to be refunded, Then confessed that WPS was his own personal vehicle and that he had used the money for his own purposes.

In his defence, Then said Mr Ling was aware that Walkers had no relationship with WPS.

He said the remaining money was loaned to his friend Frederic Gaillard, but the Swiss national denied this.

During the trial, Then submitted that there was no case to answer and did not take the stand.

In September, International Judge Simon Thorley found that Then was liable for deceit.

The judge said Then had falsely represented that WPS was controlled by Walkers, with the intention that Mr Ling should act on it and deposit money into the WPS bank account.

Mr Ling had relied on this misrepresentation in transferring the sums, said the judge.

Justice Thorley added that Then had falsely represented to Mr Ling that the purchase price of the bank was US$4 million, with the intention that Mr Ling would agree to the purchase.

There was also no evidence that the remaining sums had been loaned to Mr Gaillard, the judge said.

Separately, Then has been sued in two other civil cases - one of which he won - and faces 28 criminal charges for offences, including cheating and forgery, which are pending in court.

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