The Law Society of Singapore has taken control of all client monies held by law firm JLC Advisors and started an investigative audit following the loss of $33 million held in its escrow account for client Allied Technologies and the disappearance of its managing partner Jeffrey Ong Su Aun.
At the same time, the Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo) has directed Catalist-listed Allied Tech to expand the scope of its upcoming special audit of the company to include developments surrounding the missing funds held by JLC and the progress of its attempts to recover the money.
These moves were announced yesterday in a joint statement by the Law Society and SGX RegCo.
They come in the wake of $33,153,416, lodged in an escrow account with JLC, from which unauthorised payouts were allegedly made by Mr Ong, who has been uncontactable for several days.
The latest action by the Law Society expands the intervention it made earlier this week, when it focused on Allied Tech's account at JLC and asked for information from other law firms about clients' money that JLC may be holding.
The joint statement said that in carrying out the investigative audit on the clients' accounts at JLC, the Law Society will inquire into all the facts and circumstances surrounding the operation of the accounts and the role played by Mr Ong.
Following its findings, the Law Society will issue the appropriate statements to its members and the public, the statement added.
The Law Society also said in the statement that "interventions of this nature due to reasonable suspicions of dishonesty are rare".
It added: "Nevertheless, the Law Society does so where merited and appropriate to safeguard public interest and the integrity of the legal profession, including the vast majority of Singapore lawyers who carry out their duties with honesty, fidelity and responsibility."
The SGX RegCo's new directive ensures that Allied Tech's special auditor will consider the latest developments in its investigations.
The SGX had previously ordered the company to appoint a special auditor to investigate the circumstances surrounding various funds flows and the placing of the $33 million with JLC under escrow.
Following this week's revelations that the money is missing, SGX RegCo said the special auditor will report solely to regulator SGX.
In addition, SGX RegCo is requiring Allied Tech to obtain as quickly as possible the release of the monies held with JLC and to place them with an escrow agent approved by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, said the joint statement. The aim is to safeguard the cash and bank balances of Allied Tech.
"The outcome of the Special Audit will be made public and SGX RegCo will update the market on further actions thereafter," added the statement.
In the joint statement, SGX RegCo also noted that Mr Ong resigned as a director of SGX-listed Annica Holdings on Mon-day and has been uncontactable since then.
"Given these developments, SGX RegCo will object to any future appointment of Ong as a director or executive officer of any SGX-listed company until SGX RegCo is satisfied that the above-mentioned matters have been satisfactorily resolved," the statement added.
The SGX Regco, in its notice of compliance letter to Allied Tech, said it reserves the right to take disciplinary action against the company and/or relevant persons for breaches of the listing rules, including any failure to comply with requirements imposed by the SGX.
JLC Advisors senior partner Vincent Lim said yesterday that the firm is investigating if Mr Ong made the payouts from the account on his own initiative or on the instructions or request of others.
Several payouts were made over the period in question to different persons and entities, he added.
"There is no evidence at this time that there are any payouts to Mr Ong's own account or to any entity which to our knowledge was associated with him at that time."