Re An Advocate and Solicitor

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeChua F A J
Judgment Date27 August 1981
Neutral Citation[1981] SGHC 17
Citation[1981] SGHC 17
Defendant CounselCWG Ross-Munro and David Wee
Plaintiff CounselJ Grimberg (Drew & Napier)
Published date19 September 2003
Docket NumberOriginating Summons No 55 of 1981
Date27 August 1981
Subject MatterInvestigation,ss 84(2)(b), 87(5) & 93(1) Legal Profession Act (Cap 217),Scope,Legal Profession,Delay in reporting employee's criminal misappropriation,Punishment,Restitution as motive,Grossly improper conduct,Professional conduct

The respondent, Harry Wee, is a senior member of the legal profession. He was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court in 1948 and has since been in continuous practice. He was president of the Law Society for three years from 1975 to 1977 and during this period and for many years previously he practised under the firm name of Braddell Brothers of which he is the sole proprietor.

In 1971 he employed S Santhiran, an advocate and solicitor, as a legal assistant in Braddell Brothers.
In February 1976 he became aware that Santhiran had misappropriated monies from the clients` account of Braddell Brothers and on 8 March 1976 he was informed by his stenographer and office assistant, Miss Lisa Choo, that Santhiran`s misappropriations exceeded $200,000.

On the same day or the following day Santhiran confessed and admitted that the sums misappropriated totalled $298,270.75 and between 9 and 18 March 1976 Santhiran made restitution amounting to $267,956.12.
After Santhiran had admitted the misappropriations and made restitution of $267,956.12 the respondent decided to delay reporting Santhiran`s misdeeds to the police or to the Law Society and entrusted the investigation of the exact extent of Santhiran`s misappropriations and the clients whose monies in the clients` account had been affected to Miss Lisa Choo and a legal assistant in the firm, Miss Chan Lai Meng, an advocate and solicitor of two years` standing.

After discovery of Santhiran`s misdeeds the respondent kept Santhiran in his employment for the purpose of winding-up unfinished matters, closing up files and putting up notes on those that were on-going.
In the course of such duties, Santhiran, to the knowledge of the respondent, also appeared in the courts and also handled new matters as a legal assistant of Braddell Brothers.

By 10 June 1976 the total restitution made by Santhiran amounted to $297,956.12.
At the end of August 1976 Miss Lisa Choo reported to the respondent that she could not continue the investigation.

In November 1976 the respondent with the agreement of Santhiran, appointed a firm of accountants, Medora, Tong & Co to inspect and audit the accounts in which Santhiran was involved.
This appointment was not disclosed by the respondent to Braddell Brothers` long-standing auditors, Turquand Youngs. The respondent also did not inform his regular auditors of Santhiran`s misappropriations from the clients` account.

In December 1976 when the respondent was absent from Singapore, Santhiran ceased his employment with Braddell Brothers by which time he had made total restitution of all clients` money he had misappropriated and any outstanding shortage in the clients` account consisted of costs belonging to Braddell Brothers.
Santhiran then set up a practice on his own and the respondent first knew this in January 1977.

On 30 April 1977 the respondent wrote a letter marked `private and confidential` to the Law Society, attention Mrs Quek Bee See, who was then the vice-president of the Law Society.
The letter reads:

Dear Sirs,

I have to inform you that certain defalcations and misappropriations of moneys from various clients` accounts and costs in my firm appears to have been carried out by S Santhiran a former employee of this firm. Investigations were initially carried out by members of my firm and subsequently undertaken by independent auditors, M/s Medora Tong & Co who have produced a report.

They and our usual auditors M/s Turquand Youngs & Co have just completed the report under the Solicitors` Accounts Rules. I enclose a copy of their joint report which is a qualified report.

I will shortly be presenting the complaint against S Santhiran for action to be taken but currently he has since the said report made certain representations or supplied information to M/s Medora Tong & Co which will have to be in the form of a supplementary report to M/s Medora Tong & Co`s report and which will have to be read with the joint report.

On 26 May 1977 the respondent reported Santhiran`s defalcations to the police and on 27 May 1977 wrote a letter marked `private and confidential` to the Law Society as follows:

Dear Sirs,

re: S Santhiran

I refer to my letter dated 30 April 1977 and now enclose my complaint against the abovenamed.

I have made a report to commercial crime on this matter.

The `complaint` is a nine page typewritten document to which is annexed several `exhibits`.
One exhibit is the preliminary report of Medora, Tong & Co and another is the supplementary report of Medora, Tong & Co which gives the sum of $372,109.90 as the estimated amount which appears to have been unlawfully transferred and the sum of $297,956.12 as the amount which Santhiran returned to Braddell Brothers.

The facts which we have set out are undisputed.
They show that the respondent delayed for a period of approximately fourteen months before reporting to the Law Society that Santhiran, a legal assistant of his firm and a practising member of the profession had admitted committing criminal breach of trust. The undisputed facts further show that the respondent continued to keep in his employment as a qualified legal assistant of his firm with authority to handle legal work both in the office and in the courts on behalf of clients of the firm. The respondent, even after he became aware that Santhiran had set up a practice on his own, continued to delay for four months to report Santhiran`s misdeeds to the Law Society and to the police.

The respondent vacated office as president of the Law Society in December 1977.
On 18 March 1978 the new president as Chairman of the inquiry committee of the Law Society wrote to the respondent as follows:

Dear Sir,

The inquiry committee has decided of its own motion to inquire into your conduct in the following matters:

(a) the delay in reporting the defalcation in the accounts of Messrs Braddell Brothers of which firm you were at the material time the sole proprietor;

(b) the statement made by Mr Jamshid Medora to the Police to the effect that you had asked him (in his capacity as your firm`s Accountant) on at least two (2) occasions to speak to Mr Santhiran (your former Assistant) informing Santhiran that as long as he admitted the defalcations and applied on his own motion to have his name struck off the roll of advocates and solicitors and satisfied you of repayment of the balance of the moneys taken by him, that you would not report the matter to the police and prefer charges against Mr Santhiran.

In respect of (a) aforesaid, according to the report made by you to the Law Society dated 27 March 1977, the first defalcations were discovered in February 1976 and Mr Santhiran was said to have admitted sometime in March 1976 that he had wrongfully transferred and taken or was unable to support items totalling $298,270.75. Further you say in your report that between 9 March 1976 and 10 June 1976 Mr Santhiran repaid sums up to a total of $297,956.12 to Messrs Braddell Brothers for the defalcations on the firm`s clients` account.

In respect of (b) aforesaid, I enclose herewith xerox copy of a letter dated the 17 February 1978 from ASP Roger Lim Cher Kwan for the Head of the Commercial Crime Div, Criminal Investigation Department, Singapore, addressed to the president of the Law Society, together with xerox copies of the enclosures mentioned therein, including the statement by Mr Jamshid Medora made to Det/Insp Wong Chou Nen on the 1 November 1977.

Please be good enough to let me have any explanation you wish to offer in respect of the above within fourteen (14) days in accordance with s 87(5) of the Legal Profession Act and also advise the inquiry committee whether you wish to be heard by the inquiry committee.

For the convenience of the inquiry committee please let me have your explanation in septuplicate.

Yours faithfully,


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4 cases
  • The Law Society of Singapore v Edmund Nathan
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 14 Julio 1998
    ...three judges and on 27 August 1981, the court found that cause was not shown. Harry Wee was suspended from practice for two years (see [1981] 2 MLJ 215; [1980-1981] SLR 568). The appeal to the Privy Council was dismissed on 13 July 1982 (see [1982] 2 MLJ 293). (xv). On 26 August 1981 the di......
  • Re an Advocate and Solicitor
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 31 Enero 1984
    ...of Public Prosecutions [1964] AC 1254 (folld) Director of Public Prosecutions v Humphrys [1977] AC 1 (refd) Wee Harry Lee, Re [1981-1982] SLR (R) 181; [1980-1981] SLR 568, HC (refd) Wee Harry Lee, Re [1981-1982] SLR (R) 537, PC (refd) Yat Tung Investment Co Ltd v Dao Heng Bank Ltd [1975] AC......
  • The Law Society of Singapore v Edmund Nathan
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 14 Julio 1998
    ...three judges and on 27 August 1981, the court found that cause was not shown. Harry Wee was suspended from practice for two years (see [1981] 2 MLJ 215; [1980-1981] SLR 568). The appeal to the Privy Council was dismissed on 13 July 1982 (see [1982] 2 MLJ 293). (xv). On 26 August 1981 the di......
  • Lee Wee Harry v The Law Society of Singapore
    • United Kingdom
    • Privy Council
    • 3 Diciembre 1984
    ...March 1981. As already stated, the High Court gave judgment ordering the appellant's suspension for two years on 27 August 1981 [see [1981-1982] SLR (R) 181]. Meanwhile the appellant's appeal against his convictions under s 213 of the Penal Code from the District Court to the High Court was......

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