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Sikh man pleads guilty to misappropriating $480k in Singapore

 A 70-year-old Sikh, who is a former lawyer, has admitted that he misappropriated nearly $480,000 entrusted to him by three of his clients in Singapore, a media report said.

Gurdaib Singh Pala Singh, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts of criminal breach of trust involving nearly $459,000 and an offence under the Legal Profession Act.

A third criminal breach of trust charge involving another $21,000 will be considered during sentencing, The Straits Times reported.

Singh committed the offences between 2011 and 2016 when he was a lawyer with Gurdaib Cheong & Partners (GCP).

He continued to act as an advocate and solicitor for a man even after he was struck off the rolls in 2018.

The Straits Times reported that a man named Zulkifli Osman engaged GCP’s services for the sale of his late father’s flat in December 2010, which was sold in 2011 and the firm received sale proceeds of more than S$356,000.

Between Zulkifli and Singh it was agreed that out of that sum, the former’s brother was to receive S$138,876.50.

Following this, Zulkifli deposited S$138,876 into GCP’s client account to be held in escrow as his brother’s share of the sales proceeds on December 15, 2011.

However, between December 20, 2011, and May 3, 2012, Singh misappropriated Zulkifli’s funds in GCP’s client account by issuing cheques to pay for other matters such as the firm’s office expenses.

Zulkifli made three requests to Singh between August 2012 and July 2014 to withdraw a portion of money, unaware that it had been fully expended.

Singh then disbursed a total of S$10,156 to Zulkifli by using money in the GCP client account that belonged to the firm’s other clients.

In June 2015, Zulkifli asked Singh to withdraw the remaining S$128,720 from the funds but the offender failed to disburse any money to him.

After being struck off the company rolls in 2018, Singh agreed to represent a man in divorce proceedings.

The man, unaware that Singh had been struck off the rolls, paid him S$1,750 between September 7 and 27, 2019.

In 2020, the man asked Singh for a full refund as he no longer wanted his services, following which the offender returned S$1,000 to him.

Singh’s mitigation and sentencing are expected to take place on August 24.

The Straits Times reported that Singh was the second former lawyer to be convicted this week for criminal breach of trust after Jeffrey Ong Su Aun was jailed for 19 years after he misappropriated nearly S$76 million of his clients’ money.

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