Lawyer linked to missing S$33m gets 13 more charges, court hears details of his escape to Malaysia
SINGAPORE: A lawyer who allegedly went missing along with S$33 million was given 13 more charges on Thursday (Jun 20), while details of his escape to Malaysia were also revealed in court.
The additional charges were all for forgery for the purpose of cheating. This was in relation to a fifth firm, separate from the other four that he has already been charged over or linked to.
The court heard that Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, the 41-year-old managing director of law firm JLC Advisors, had left Singapore via Tuas Checkpoint after he was questioned about missing money.
He had on him a stolen Malaysian passport "belonging to a person very close to him in age", the prosecutor told the court.
Engineering firm Allied Tech had filed a police report over an unauthorised payout of S$33 million from its escrow account, which Ong allegedly authorised before going missing.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo told the court that he objected to defence lawyer Jennifer Sia's request for bail, calling Ong a high flight risk.
"Not only did he leave jurisdiction after he was asked about missing monies, thereafter he had disposed of his handphone and he had swapped out the SIM card onto a brand new handphone," said the prosecutor.
"Further arrangements were made for him to stay in two locations - one in an office and another in a hotel, for which he did not pay with credit cards."
Ong had not voluntarily surrendered, said the prosecutor, but instead "resources were expended and a warrant of arrest had to be executed overseas in order to bring the accused back to Singapore".
Ong's defence lawyer said her client hoped to receive bail as he wanted "to spend some time with his son", who is under two years old, and to "settle some personal matters".
"Since he has been brought in by the Commercial Affairs Department, he has been giving his fullest cooperation and he intends to remain in Singapore to continue his fullest cooperation," said the lawyer.
The judge rejected her request, saying that Ong is "clearly ... a high flight risk".
SCHEME AND EXTENT OF FRAUD LARGER AND MORE COMPLEX: POLICE
The prosecution also tendered an affidavit by an investigation officer on the case. In the document, the officer said CAD received a complaint lodged against Ong for alleged criminal breach of trust by an agent of at least S$33 million.
Investigations showed that Ong had left Singapore on May 13.
After he was pressed into accounting for unauthorised withdrawals of clients' monies by partners in his law firm, Ong made arrangements with his friends for a driver to take him into Malaysia.
He informed only his wife about his plans to travel to Malaysia, and took a private-hire car obtained by his friend instead of going in his family car.
While in Malaysia, Ong met with another man, whose office he stayed at for two to three days, before moving to a hotel in Cheras, Vivatel Kuala Lumpur.
He was still at the hotel when Malaysian police nabbed him.
The capture came after the State Courts issued a warrant of arrest against Ong on May 25, to be executed in Malaysia, based on a holding charge of cheating involving S$6 million.
Ong was arrested by the Royal Malaysia Police in Kuala Lumpur on May 29 and taken back to Singapore the next day.
The officer said in his affidavit that there was "a real risk that he may abscond" if released on bail.
The CAD officer also said that "the scheme and extent of the fraud perpetrated by the accused is far larger and more complex than what was initially reported in the police report".
Ong allegedly made "numerous unauthorised transactions", paying the monies to various parties. Investigations are ongoing to determine the others involved in the alleged fraud, and several forged documents are said to be involved in the scheme.
Ong was first charged on Jun 1 with one count of cheating involving S$6 million. He was charged on Jun 13 with another eight charges of forgery for the purpose of cheating. With Thursday's additional charges, he now faces 22 charges in total.
No charges have been tendered yet over the S$33 million.
For each count of cheating or forgery for the purpose of cheating, Ong could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.
He will return to court on Jul 11.