Lawyer in high-profile drug trafficking case under probe for practising with expired certificate

Ms Violet Netto had represented drug trafficker Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam in an appeal against his death sentence. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Lawyer Violet Netto is believed to be under investigation by the police after she allegedly acted as an advocate and solicitor without a valid practising certificate.

Ms Netto had earlier this year represented Malaysian drug trafficker Nagaenthran K. Dharmalingam in an appeal against his death sentence. He was hanged on April 27.

On Tuesday (May 10), the police said in a statement that a report was lodged on April 27 against a woman who had purportedly acted as an advocate and solicitor on at least three occasions when her certificate had expired.

The Straits Times understands that the woman is Ms Netto.

She declined to comment, citing ongoing investigations.

According to the Singapore Courts website, solicitors must apply for a practising certificate for every practice year they act in the capacity of an advocate and solicitor. A practice year lasts from April 1 to March 31.

The police added that they have commenced investigations against the woman for an offence under the Legal Profession Act.

They said they were unable to comment further as investigations are ongoing.

The offence of an unauthorised person acting as an advocate or solicitor carries a fine of up to $25,000, jail of up to six months, or both.

Repeat offenders face a fine of up to $50,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both.

Nagaenthran was convicted of trafficking 42.72g of heroin in 2010 and given the mandatory death penalty.

His appeals against his conviction and sentence were dismissed in 2011.

In 2017, the High Court found that he did not qualify for a life term, after considering psychological and psychiatric evidence.

His case caused public outcry after a letter sent from the prison authorities to his mother informing her that the death sentence would be carried out on Nov 10 last year was circulated on social media.

On March 1, his lawyers, including Ms Netto, argued that Nagaenthran was not competent to be executed, claiming he was mentally disabled.

On March 29, the five-judge court said there was no admissible evidence showing any decline in Nagaenthran’s mental condition.

Two days before he was due to be executed, his mother made a last-ditch application to halt the execution but it was dismissed by a three-judge Court of Appeal. The prosecution argued then that the court papers, which were written in legal language, could only have been drafted with some form of legal advice and asked the court to direct Madam Panchalai Supermaniam to state who had prepared the papers. Madam Panchalai, however, maintained she did not have a lawyer.

The court found the application devoid of factual and legal merit, and said it was a clear continuation of tactics to “drip-feed” applications to prevent the sentence from being carried out.

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