Partner may have ordered payout of $33m, says law firm

JLC Advisors said it has reasons to believe that the payout was made on the instructions of its managing partner Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, who has been uncontactable, and "might have been unauthorised".
JLC Advisors said it has reasons to believe that the payout was made on the instructions of its managing partner Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, who has been uncontactable, and "might have been unauthorised".ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

JLC Advisors, which held missing sum belonging to Allied Tech, says partner is now uncontactable

A missing sum of around $33 million belonging to Allied Technologies and held by law firm JLC Advisors is believed to have been paid out on the instructions of its ma-naging partner Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, who has been uncontactable for several days.

In a statement filed last night with the Singapore Exchange, Catalist-listed Allied Technologies said it received a letter from JLC Advisors on Wednesday saying that the funds of $33.4 million have been purportedly paid out from a trust or escrow account.

The law firm also said in the letter that it has reasons to believe the payout was made on Mr Ong's instructions, and "might have been unauthorised".

The letter, which carried JLC's letterhead, stated that the law firm is investigating the matter and has lodged reports with the relevant authorities, said Allied Tech, which added that the amount stated as held by JLC was incorrect and should be around $33.2 million.

Allied Tech said that despite repeated demands for repayment since March 23, including a letter of demand issued by its lawyers from Rajah & Tann on May 17, JLC has failed to release the balance funds of $33,153,416.56 and has breached its obligations under the escrow agreement inked on Oct 23, 2017.

It added that Mr Ong "had repeatedly represented to the company that the release of the escrow funds would be forthcoming, and had never once stated that the escrow funds were missing, that it had already been paid out or that JLC would not comply with the company's request to release the escrow funds in accordance with the escrow agreement".

Allied Tech said the authorised joint signatories for fund disbursements comprise its executive director Kenneth Low Si Ren and independent director Lim Jin Wei.

 
 
 

Both have individually confirmed to the company that they have not given any instructions to JLC - either verbally or in writing - to release the balance sum, said Allied Tech, adding that any instructions for fund disbursement are required to be in writing.

The precision engineering firm said it has instructed its lawyers to respond to the JLC letter to clarify the situation. It is also requiring the law firm to provide documentary evidence and a statement of accounts of the funds as well as an update on Mr Ong's whereabouts.

Allied Tech said it has also asked its lawyers to make a police report, report the matter to the Law Society and commence legal proceedings to protect its interests.

NO INDICATION FUNDS WERE MISSING

This is notwithstanding that at all material times, JLC's managing director, Mr Ong Su Aun, Jeffrey, had repeatedly represented to the company that the release of the escrow funds would be forthcoming, and had never once stated that the escrow funds were missing, that it had already been paid out or that JLC would not comply with the company's request to release the escrow funds in accordance with the escrow agreement.

ALLIED TECHNOLOGIES, who says that despite repeated demands for repayment since March 23, JLC has failed to release the balance escrow funds and has breached its obligations under the escrow agreement inked on Oct 23, 2017.

"The company is monitoring the situation closely and will take rigorous steps to protect its interests. The company will continue to provide further updates to shareholders on subsequent material developments," Allied Tech added.

Rajah & Tann lead counsel Jonathan Yuen said yesterday: "We will prosecute this matter rigorously and comprehensively to hold those responsible to account to protect our client's interests." He said a letter was sent to JLC yesterday seeking clarifications on several issues in its May 22 letter.

A police spokesman said investigations are ongoing.

The Law Society said on Wednesday that it has intervened in JLC's client account and also notified other law firms with pending matters relating to JLC's client account to provide details about the amount of client money held, and to whom and when it is to be paid.

The missing $33 million could be a record amount for lost monies in cases linked to lawyers, such as David Rasif, who is still at large after running away with $11.3 million of his clients' money in 2006.

Laws were passed in 2011 to prevent conveyancing lawyers from absconding with their clients' funds, ceasing the practice of banking money from property transactions into law firms' client accounts.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2019, with the headline 'Partner may have ordered payout of $33m, says law firm'. Print Edition | Subscribe