SINGAPORE - A lawyer from Hilborne Law collected legal fees totalling more than $31,000 from clients but did not deposit the monies into the firm’s accounts.
Zaminder Singh Gill also failed to register the clients with the firm.
He then transferred the monies to his personal bank account and used his ill-gotten gains for family expenses.
Gill, who was legal associate at Hilborne Law between 2016 and last year, is no longer working at the firm.
The 57-year-old Singaporean was sentenced on Monday (Sept 28) to two years and three months’ jail after pleading guilty to five counts of criminal breach of trust as an attorney involving more than $20,000. These charges were linked to five victims.
Ten other similar charges involving the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Chew said that Gill was called to the Singapore Bar in 2005.
One of the victims engaged him as her lawyer in 2018 when she was being investigated for offences which were not revealed in court documents.
On May 1 and June 18 last year, she entrusted him with legal fees totalling $4,000.
Gill later misappropriated the money. On July 5 last year, she tried but failed to contact him for an update of her case.
The victim contacted Hilborne Law and was told that he had gone overseas. She tried to contact him many times after this but to no avail.
A representative from the firm lodged a police report against Gill on July 18 last year.
The representative told police that various people had contacted Hilborne Law, stating that they had engaged its services and paid legal fees to Gill.
The Hilborne representative said these people “were not recorded in Hilborne’s client register, and the monies collected were not deposited into Hilborne’s client or office accounts”, said DPP Chew.
On July 23 last year, the victim received a letter from the firm, stating that Gill had been terminated. She alerted the authorities eight days later.
Gill also targeted four more people besides her, the court heard.
He was not in Singapore at the time of these complaints.
According to him, he was then in Thailand where his partner, stepson and son live, and that he had broken his leg. Gill was later arrested when he returned to Singapore on Oct 14 last year.
On Monday, DPP Chew urged District Judge Toh Yung Cheong to sentence Gill to at least two years and three months’ jail. She stressed that criminal breach of trust by lawyers is a “grave offence” and that he had made no restitution.
Defence lawyer R. Shiever pleaded for judicial mercy and said his client was truly remorseful. Gill cried as he addressed the court and said that he had lost everything.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Toh said that such offences could undermine public confidence in the legal profession.
For each count of criminal breach of trust as an attorney, an offender can either be jailed for life or jailed for up to 20 years and fined.
On Monday, The Straits Times asked the Law Society on what action will be taken against Gill. Its spokesman said: "The Law Society will be reviewing the charges brought, statement of facts, mitigation plea and grounds of decision (if any) and will determine the appropriate disciplinary course of action thereafter."