Past cases of lawyers suspended for misconduct involving conflict of interest

The Court of Three Judges looked at three precedent cases involving conflict of interest before making its judgment.
The Court of Three Judges looked at three precedent cases involving conflict of interest before making its judgment.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Court of Three Judges looked at these three precedent cases involving conflict of interest before handing down a 15-month suspension to lawyer Lee Suet Fern for her role in the preparation and execution of the last will of her father-in-law Lee Kuan Yew.

1. Ahmad Khalis Abdul Ghani

Mr Ahmad Khalis Abdul Ghani was instructed by a client named Rasid to file a petition to get documents for him to administer his late father's estate.

The other beneficiaries of the estate had misgivings about Mr Rasid being the sole administrator.

The lawyer assured them that Mr Rasid would not be able to deal with the assets, which included a property, without their consent.

Mr Rasid later mortgaged the property to secure a loan without the other beneficiaries' knowledge. He fell behind on the mortgage payments, causing the bank to foreclose.

The lawyer was found to have an implied solicitor-client relationship with the other beneficiaries and failed to extricate himself from the position of conflict.

He was suspended for two years.

2. Peter Ezekiel

Mr Peter Ezekiel acted for two clients with conflicting interests and ended up favouring one over the other.

One client was an employee charged with making a false declaration in his application for a work permit by inflating his salary. The other was the worker's employer, who counter-signed the application.

The employee told the lawyer that he had been deceived by his employer and genuinely believed his salary was the amount stated in the application.

The lawyer did not convey this to the Attorney-General's Chambers in written representations. The worker was fined $6,000 and repatriated to India.

The lawyer, who had antecedents, was suspended for three years.

3. Kay Swee Tuan

Ms Kay Swee Tuan asked a fellow lawyer to certify a lasting power of attorney (LPA) which would give her sister, Ms Kay Swee Pin, the power to act on behalf of the latter's long-time partner, Mr Ng Kong Yeam.

An LPA is a document which allows a person, known as a donor, to appoint another, known as a donee, to make decisions on his behalf should he lose the mental capacity to do so.

Ms Kay Swee Tuan had asked Mr Sum Chong Mun to certify the form after her signature was rejected because of her relationship to the donee.

Her conduct was considered to be a case of conflict of interest as she got Mr Sum to help her sister become a donee, with blatant disregard for Mr Ng's interests.

She was suspended for 2½ years.