Re Abdul Rahim Rajudin

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeT S Sinnathuray J
Judgment Date02 November 1988
Neutral Citation[1988] SGHC 85
Citation[1988] SGHC 85
Defendant CounselBernard Doray (Bernard Doray Rada & Partners)
Plaintiff CounselBurke-Gaffney QC and B Mohan Singh (B Mohan Singh & Co)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 973 of 1987
Date02 November 1988
Subject Matters 80(2) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161),Complaint of lawyer's demand for unconscionable commissions for putting through land transactions and rendering excessive bill,Whether grossly improper conduct,Legal Profession,Sch 1 r 14 & Sch VI Solicitors' Remuneration Order 1974,Professional conduct,Grossly improper conduct

Abdul Rahim Rajudin (the respondent) is an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court; he was admitted to the Bar on 11 May 1977. At the material time he carried on and presently carries on his legal practice in sole proprietorship. From as early as October 1979 he acted for one Peter Chaw Chuan Choon (Peter Chaw) in the purchase of a piece of land situated at Coronation Road marked on a government resurvey map as Lot 87-9 of Mukim II and comprising an area of 95,379 sq ft (the property). Negotiations for the purchase of the property between Peter Chaw and the then owners had commenced much earlier than October 1979 - sometime in the middle of 1979 or thereabout. The agreement for the purchase of the property was executed on or about 4 February 1980, under which Peter Chaw agreed to purchase the property at the price of $667,653 (calculated at $7 per sq ft) without vacant possession, and completion of the purchase was to take place on 21 June 1980. After the purchase of the property, arrangements were made for the resale of the property. According to the respondent, after several meetings with prospective buyers which came to nought, Peter Chaw asked him to find a purchaser. The respondent through his friend, Roland Mah, introduced one Philip Yap Pui Long (Philip Yap) to Peter Chaw. On 4 March 1980, Philip Yap, Roland Mah, Peter Chaw and the respondent met at the latter`s office and after negotiations, the price was agreed at $23.50 per sq ft. A sale and purchase agreement was prepared and signed by Peter Chaw and Philip Yap the next day. By this agreement, Peter Chaw agreed to sell the property to Philip Yap at the price of $2,241,406.50 (calculated at $23.50 per sq ft) with vacant possession and completion for the sale and purchase was fixed for 30 September 1980. The respondent acted for both Peter Chaw and Philip Yap in this transaction.

Prior to the execution of the sale agreement with Philip Yap, negotiations also took place between Roland Mah and Peter Chaw as to the commission payable to Roland Mah by Peter Chaw.
In consequence, a document was signed by Peter Chaw and addressed to the respondent under which Peter Chaw agreed to pay to Roland Mah a commission at the rate of 50 cents per sq ft of the property `for securing a buyer` and authorized the respondent to release the commission to Roland Mah from the proceeds of sale of the property on completion. This document was first agreed upon on 29 February 1980 but was subsequently amended and signed on 4 March 1980. We shall refer to this document as `the note`. The commission originally asked for was $1 per sq ft but was reduced to 50 cents per sq ft. Out of this commission, Roland Mah agreed in writing by an endorsement on the note to pay to the respondent a share at the rate of 25 cents per sq ft.

But prior to the sale and purchase agreement with Philip Yap, Peter Chaw had on 26 December 1979 entered into a sale and purchase agreement dated 26 December 1979 to sell the property to one Madam Lee Suat Hong represented by M/s Lee Bon Leong & Co.
The price for the property subject to the existing tenancies was $1,335,306 (at $14 per sq ft). The respondent did not know of this agreement until early April 1980. Subsequently, the respondent resolved the matter with M/s Lee Bon Leong & Co and that agreement was rescinded upon terms which, inter alia, included a payment of $273,036.63 to Madam Lee Suat Hong. This payment was advanced by Philip Yap and deducted from the purchase price under the sale agreement made between him and Peter Chaw.

On or about 25 June 1980, an agreement in writing was made between Peter Chaw and the respondent, whereby Peter Chaw agreed to pay to the respondent the sum of $119,223.75 (calculated at the rate of $1.25 per sq ft) for the services rendered by the respondent in `securing a buyer for (Peter Chaw) to purchase the property at $23.50 per sq ft`.
We shall refer to this agreement as `the commission agreement`. By the commission agreement, Peter Chaw also agreed that the sum of $119,223.75 would be paid on 13 September 1980 or on a later date fixed for completion of the sale of the property to Philip Yap. At or about that time, disputes between Peter Chaw and Philip Yap as to the clearance of squatters on the property and the payments under the sale agreement had erupted. In consequence, the respondent could not act for either party; they both discharged the respondent and engaged separate solicitors. Shortly thereafter, by exchange of correspondence between Kirpal Singh & Co, who were then the solicitors for Peter Chaw, and the respondent it was agreed that the sum of $119,223.75 would include the latter`s costs and all disbursements incurred from 4 October 1979 to 25 June 1980.

On 23 August 1980, a vendor and purchaser summons in Originating Summons No 418 of 1980 was taken out by Philip Yap against Peter Chaw concerning the sale agreement made between them.
Thereafter, the respondent assisted Kirpal Singh & Co in those proceedings on matters of fact, attending at their office and swearing an affidavit in support of Peter Chaw`s case; he also attended court to give assistance on the facts of which he had personal knowledge. On 10 April 1981, the respondent sent to Peter Chaw a bill of costs dated 3 April 1981 for $150,000 for professional charges in connection with the property. We shall refer to this bill of costs as `the bill`. No payment, however, was made by Peter Chaw. On 26 April 1982, the respondent instituted legal proceedings against Peter Chaw in Suit No 1675 of 1982 claiming for the sum of $150,000 as professional charges for work done relating to the property. In that suit the respondent also took out an application for summary judgment, which, however, was adjourned sine die. On 5 August 1982, Peter Chaw in turn instituted legal proceedings against the respondent in Originating Summons No 448 of 1982 seeking an order for taxation of the bill but did not pursue the matter further.

On 23 March 1982, Peter Chaw made a complaint to the Law Society of Singapore (Law Society) against the respondent.
The complaint was referred to the Inquiry Committee and upon the report of the committee, the Council of the Law Society determined that there should be a formal investigation by a Disciplinary Committee of the following complaints, namely:

(1) that the respondent took advantage of Peter Chaw by demanding unconscionable commissions for putting through various land deals on top of legal costs (thereby breaching para 14 of the Solicitors` Remuneration Order 1974);

(2) that he rendered an excessive bill of $150,000.

In due course a Disciplinary Committee was appointed.
Before the Disciplinary Committee (the committee), the complaints against the respondent as set out in the amended statement of case were as follows:

(a) On or about 4 March 1980 he solicited for and agreed to accept a commission of $23,844.75 computed at the rate of 25 cents per sq ft of the property as remuneration for services in securing a buyer and subsequently on or about 29 June 1980 he entered into an agreement with Peter Chaw to take a further sum of $119,223.75 computed at the rate of $1.25 per sq ft of the property as further remuneration for services rendered in securing a buyer, and in the premises he acted in contravention of r 14 of Sch I to the Solicitors` Remuneration Order 1974 (r 14).

(b) On or about 10 April 1981 he rendered a bill to Peter Chaw for $150,000 without justification.

By reason of these matters it was alleged that the respondent (i) had been guilty of grossly improper conduct in the discharge of his professional duty within the meaning of s 84(2)(b), now s 80(2)(b), of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161) (the Act) and (ii) had contravened s 84(2)(j), now s 80(2)(i), of the Act.

The committee in their report dated 26 April 1984 made findings on three critical documents: (i) the note; (ii) the commission agreement; and (iii) the bill.

On the note, the committee found, by inference, that the respondent asked for and agreed through his friend, Roland Mah, to take commission amounting to $23,844.75 computed on the basis of 25 cents per sq ft of the property.

On the commission agreement the committee found that the stand taken by the respondent was rather ambiguous: on the one hand he said that the amount stated therein was `finder`s fees` to which he was entitled for securing a buyer in his personal capacity and not professional capacity, and on the other he said it was initially a gift from Peter Chaw.
The committee appeared to have rejected his evidence and accepted the evidence of Peter Chaw. Peter Chaw said that the respondent had on 4 March 1980 asked him to pay the commission of $1.25 per sq ft `for all the work to be done including introduction of a buyer`, and at the time of the signing of the commission agreement he had no choice but to sign it when requested by the respondent as he urgently needed the respondent`s assistance towards the end of June 1980. The committee found that there was evidence that Peter Chaw had problems then and the question of his need to change solicitor was arising at about that time.

It was in evidence, and was accepted by the committee, that the initial agreement, the note, for payment of 25 cents per sq ft had merged into the commission agreement, and that subsequently by agreement between the respondent and Peter Chaw`s new solicitor, Kirpal Singh, the commission of $119,223.75 was treated as including the respondent`s costs and all the disbursements incurred from 4 October 1979 to 25 June 1980.
The respondent maintained that his costs and disbursements were approximately $50,000 and the balance sum of $69,000 represented the commission or `finder`s fees` for securing a purchaser. The committee found that the commission of $119,223.75 under the agreement was a gross overcharge, and further, even if part of it was converted to fees and disbursements, the...

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6 cases
  • Re Lau Liat Meng
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 29 Mayo 1992
    ......themselves open to disciplinary action (see Re Abdul Rahim Rajudin < 1989 > 1 MLJ 289, 296), for they have abused the trust and confidence reposed in ......
  • Re Han Ngiap Juan
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 30 Enero 1993
    ......Even so, we are in full agreement with this statement of principle. In Abdul Rahim Rajudin `s case,3 the charges against the respondent involved, inter alia, a bill of costs ......
  • Law Society of Singapore v Ang Chin Peng
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 26 Noviembre 2012
    ...of a three-month suspension against each of the Respondents was thus appropriate: at [67] and [73] to [75]. Abdul Rahim Rajudin, Re [1988] 2 SLR (R) 359; [1988] SLR 907 (folld) Han Ngiap Juan, Re [1993] 1 SLR (R) 135; [1993] 2 SLR 81 (folld) Jemma Trust Co Ltd v Liptrott [2004] 1 WLR 646 (f......
  • Law Society of Singapore v Low Yong Sen
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 8 Octubre 2008
    ...of the disciplinary committee and ordered the solicitor to be suspended from practice for three months. In Re Abdul Rahim Rajudin [1988] SLR 907, the solicitor was suspended for two months for demanding unconscionable commissions and rendering an excessive bill. In Re Han Ngiap Juan ([25] s......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2007, December 2007
    • 1 Diciembre 2007
    ...complainant urgently required the money from Philip Yap because he needed it to pay American Express. See also Re Abdul Rahim Rajudin [1988] 1 SLR 907 (CA). The mere fact that the taxed bill far under-estimates the bill of costs, therefore, does establish gross overcharging. There needs to ......

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