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Lawyer now incommunicado after allegedly unauthorised payout of $33 million in client’s funds

Another brazen white collar crime may emerge as the mystery of the missing millions of Allied Technologies deepens.

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Singapore—Allied Technologies (AT) is missing over $33 million. The precision-engineering firm had formerly had this amount held in an escrow account managed by law firm JLC Advisors. On Thursday (May 23), however, AT filed a statement with the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) to report that they had received a letter purpotedly from JLC Advisors (JLC) stating that $33.4 million from the account had been paid out.

According to this letter, the money is believed to have been paid out upon instructions from the law firm’s managing partner Jeffrey Ong Su Aun but Mr Ong’s instructions “might have been unauthorised”.

Adding to AT’s anxiety over its missing millions, this explanatory letter opened up further concerns of accountability and accuracy because, as reported by The Business Times, it did not bear a reference number or signatory name.

Mr Ong, unfortunately, has been incommunicado since Wednesday — the day before the deadline of AT’s letter of demand for JLC to return the missing funds.

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In the May 23 letter, the law firm clarified that the funds amount in question is around $33.15 million and not $33.4 million as was written in Allied Tech’s filed statement.

JLC also said that it has launched an investigation into the matter and has filed a report with pertinent authorities.

On the other hand, the precision-engineering firm had made repeated demands for repayment over the past two months. On May 17, it had issued its letter of demand from its lawyers Rajah & Tann (R&T) Singapore.

In spite of these actions, JLC has not released the escrow funds. This is a transgression of its obligations under the Escrow Agreement.

Allied Tech states, “This is notwithstanding that at all material times, JLC’s managing director, Mr Ong Su Aun, Jeffrey, had repeatedly represented to the company that the release of the escrow funds would be forthcoming, and had never once stated that the escrow funds were missing, that it had already been paid out or that JLC would not comply with the company’s request to release the escrow funds in accordance with the escrow agreement.”

According to the engineering firm, JLC’s two signatories of fund disbursements from the escrow account are its executive director Kenneth Low Si Ren and independent director Lim Jin Wei. Low and Lim have stated that they have not instructed the law firm to disburse any balance amounts from Allied Tech’s escrow account.

Now, Allied Tech is asking that the whereabouts of Mr Ong be revealed by the law firm. It has also had its lawyers to draft a police report as well as report the case of the missing funds and Mr Ong’s refusal to communicate to the Law Society, and to begin legal proceedings against JLC.

“The company is monitoring the situation closely and will take rigorous steps to protect its interests. The company will continue to provide further updates to shareholders on subsequent material developments,” said Allied Tech.

A representative of the police confirmed that investigations into the matter have been launched.

The Business Times reports that Mr Ong had ignored numerous requests from Allied Tech to return the money since March.

One of the partners at R&T Singapore, Jonathan Yuen, said, “Last email sent by Jeffrey Ong was on May 13, telling my client that he would be able to repay the money by Friday, May 17.”

When May 17 came and went without repayment, Mr Yuen was instructed by Allied Tech to issue its demand letter.

Allied Tech has heard nothing from Mr Ong since then.

According to a report by leading business news daily The Edge, Singapore-based investment holding company Annica Holdings for whom Mr Ong was chairman, reported to the SGX on May 22 that Ong had submitted his resignation via email on May 20 as acting non-executive chairman and independent director of JLC due to personal reasons.

On May 23 (Thursday), Singapore Exchange Regulation (SGX RegCo), said that it would object to any appointments of Mr Ong as a director or executive officer of any company listed in Singapore in the future./ TISG

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