Law Society of Singapore v Ng Chee Sing

JurisdictionSingapore
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChao Hick Tin JA
Judgment Date13 March 2000
Neutral Citation[2000] SGHC 35
Citation[2000] SGHC 35
Plaintiff CounselMohan R Pillay and Emiley Yeow (Wong Partnership)
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 1778 of 1999
Defendant CounselRespondent absent
Date13 March 2000
Publication Date19 September 2003
SubjectWords and Phrases,Principles of disciplinary sentencing,"Conduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor",Legal Profession Act,Grossly improper conduct,"Grossly improper conduct",Conduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor,s 83(2)(h) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1997 Ed),Whether respondent guilty of such conduct in discharging his professional duty,Professional conduct,s 83(2)(b)Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1997 Ed),s 83 Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 1997 Ed),Legal Profession

(delivering the grounds of judgment of the court): Introduction

This was an application under s 98 of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161) by the Law Society of Singapore to make absolute an order to show cause made against the respondent, Billy Ng Chee Sing, on 29 November 1999 by Kan Ting Chiu J. Following three unsuccessful attempts to serve the relevant documents personally on the respondent, the Law Society eventually obtained an order for substituted service on 1 February 2000, by way of posting at the respondent`s last known address. The respondent was not present in court on the day this application was heard.

The facts

The respondent, formerly a Police Force Scholar, was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore in 1995. He was made a partner in the firm of Billy Ng Chua & Partners (`BNCP`) in 1996, the year in which the events leading to these proceedings took place.

The respondent acted for both the purchasers/mortgagors and mortgagees in the grant of two mortgage loans. He was assisted by his legal assistant, Ms Chan Lai Fong. The loans related to the purported purchase of two residential units by one Foo Beng Wai and one Chan Kok Fai (`the first mortgagor` and `the second mortgagor` respectively). These two residential units were located at the development known as Trevose Park at Trevose Crescent.

The two residential units were [num ]03-02 Trevose Park, Block 66 (`the first mortgaged property`) and [num ]02-08 Trevose Park, Block 70 (`the second mortgaged property`) (collectively `the two mortgaged properties`). Prior to the purported purchase transactions, the two mortgaged properties were owned by the vendors, Tej Paul Jain and Rakesh Jain respectively (collectively known as `the vendors`).

One Tarun Jain acted, at all material times, for the vendors under a power of attorney executed in his favour. The mortgagee in the purported purchase of the two mortgaged properties was Public Finance Co Ltd (`Public Finance`).

The purchase of Nos 66 and 70 Trevose Crescent

In or about January 1996, Tarun Jain sought the respondent`s advice on how to raise funds for his business activities. At about the same time, Tarun Jain and the respondent agreed :

(a) to use the two mortgaged properties to raise funds for Tarun Jain`s business activities by procuring buyers for the two mortgaged properties;

(b) to use the sale proceeds for investment purposes so as to generate profits that would be shared equally between them; and

(c) that these buyers would later re-sell the two properties to Tarun Jain at the same price.

In or around February 1996, the respondent approached the first mortgagor and the second mortgagor and asked them to purchase the first mortgaged property and the second mortgaged property respectively from Tarun Jain. The two mortgagors were actually nominees for the respondent. The respondent then approached Public Finance to finance the two purchases on behalf of the two mortgagors.

The first mortgage loan (being a loan of $1,300,00) that was extended to the first mortgagor was meant to be secured by a first legal mortgage registered against the first mortgaged property, which the first mortgagor was purportedly buying. The second mortgage loan (being a loan of $1,250,000) which was disbursed to the second mortgagor was, in turn, meant to be secured by a first legal mortgage registered against the second mortgaged property which the second mortgagor was purportedly buying. At that time, United Overseas Bank (`UOB`) was the existing mortgagee of both properties.

The mortgage transactions

On 15 March 1996, Public Finance issued letters of offer for the mortgage loans to the two mortgagors. The mortgage documents were signed by Public Finance and the first mortgagor and the second mortgagor respectively. The mortgage documents were forwarded to BNCP on the same day.

BNCP also advised Public Finance to release the first mortgage loan in the form of a cashier`s order for $889,674.73 in favour of UOB for the account of Tej Paul Jain, and a cash cheque for $410,325.27. Further, caveats were lodged by BNCP against the first and second mortgaged properties on 15 March 1996 itself. On 16 March 1996, Public Finance disbursed the first mortgage loan in the manner prescribed by BNCP.

On 25 March 1996, BNCP advised Public Finance to release the second mortgage loan in the form of a cashier`s order for $565,387.76 in favour of UOB for the account of Rakesh Jain, and a cashier`s order for $684,612.24 in favour of BNCP. This was done by Public Finance on 26 March 1996.

All the three cashier`s orders and the single cash cheque were presented for payment and duly honoured.

On 27 March 1996, the respondent used a total sum of S$1,088,687.51 (being the balance of the first and second mortgage loans) as agreed with Tarun Jain by extending loans to other persons at a commission of about 3% to 5%. Firstly, the balance of the second mortgage loan disbursed to BNCP, being a sum of S$678,362.24, was extended to one Tay Ho Han in two cheques drawn on BNCP`s account for the sums of S$300,000 and S$378,362.24 respectively. Secondly, cash amounting to S$410,325.57 was extended to one Mark Tan. The balance of the first mortgage loan of $410,325.27 disbursed to BNCP was included in this loan to Mark Tan. The commission earned from the disbursement of these two loans was to be shared between Tarun Jain and the respondent.

The respondent did not tell Public Finance that the first and second mortgagors were his nominees, nor did the respondent inform Public Finance that part of the mortgage loans were to be used by him and Tarun Jain for the purposes of their personal investments. Thus, Public Finance was at all material times under the impression that the first and second mortgage loans were straightforward mortgage transactions.

Failure to register mortgages

The first legal mortgages on the first and second mortgaged properties were not registered in the Land Titles Registry. When Public Finance inquired of the respondent on the status of the mortgages on 8 April 1996, the respondent told them that registration was still pending and that, in any case, both mortgagors wanted to redeem the loans. On 3 May 1996, BNCP gave notices of redemption for the first and second mortgaged properties. However, the two mortgage loans were not redeemed.

On 2 July 1996, Public Finance received a letter from PK Wong & Advani, a firm of solicitors, stating that they acted for the vendors. They stated that Public Finance should remove their caveats over the two mortgaged properties as there was no relationship between the vendors, their clients, and Public Finance. On 5 July 1996, BNCP replied to PK Wong & Advani on behalf of Public Finance stating that the mortgaged properties had been refinanced through Public Finance and that the transactions were pending registration.

Public Finance wrote to the respondent and his assistant on 13 August 1996 inquiring on the status of the registration and asking that the matter be urgently resolved by 16 August 1996. They received no reply from the respondent.

On 18 September 1996, Public Finance instructed Piah Tan & Partners (`PTP`) to obtain the relevant documents for registration from BCNP. The next day, PTP asked BNCP to forward the relevant documents to them for the registration of the mortgages, including the following :

(A) duplicate subsidiary strata Certificate of Title;

(B) mortgage in Public Finance`s favour;

(C) total discharge of mortgage;

...

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