SINGAPORE: Lawyer Lim Tean has been found guilty by a disciplinary tribunal of two charges of grossly improper conduct over the handling of S$30,000 belonging to an ex-client.
Mr Lim was found by the disciplinary tribunal to have been seeking to use the money in question to pay not only his fees but also the fees of a creditor of the former client. He is said to have intentionally kept a cheque for S$30,000 that he received from a former client.
Reports of the finding against Mr Lim, who also heads the opposition party People’s Voice, came to light on Tuesday (Aug 22) when they were made public.
The matter surfaced after a complaint was made by Mr Lim’s former client, Mr Suresh Kumar A Jesupal. Mr Lim had represented Mr Suresh Kumar in a motor vehicle accident claim on October 2018.
The following year, the client was awarded S$50,000 upon issuing a judgment in the case.
Willy Tay Chambers, the solicitors for AXA Insurance, paid S$30,000 to Carson Law Chambers, Mr Lim’s firm, on Nov 14, 2019.
But the previous day, Mr Suresh Kumar discharged Mr Lim after hiring a different law firm, Joseph Chen & Co, to represent him. This firm sent Carson Law Chambers a letter informing them of the change that same day (Nov 13).
Mr Lim said, however, that he only found out that Mr Suresh Kumar had replaced his law firm on Nov 14. On the same day, Mr Lim deposited the cheque into Carson Law Chambers’ office account, not its client account.
A third charge of misappropriating the amount paid due to failing or neglecting to pay it to the client had also been brought by the Law Society of Singapore against Mr Lim, but this charge was later withdrawn when Mr Suresh Kumar did not provide the necessary evidence.
CNA reported Mr Lim as saying that Mr Suresh Kumar kept on meeting with the lawyers at Carson Law Chambers even after he informed them that he had changed lawyers and that based on a previous arrangement, Mr Suresh Kumar was to first pay proceeds of the judgment sum to his creditor, as well as to Mr Lim.
However, the tribunal found that despite being fully aware that he had been replaced as Mr Suresh Kumar’s lawyer by Nov 14, 2019, he still deposited the cheque into Carson Law Chambers’ office account.
It said that Mr Lim’s actions were not “accidental or inadvertent but deliberate” and that he did not show evidence of “what actually happened to the money thereafter”.
The tribunal also rejected Mr Lim’s claim that not depositing the cheque from Mr Suresh Kumar into the client’s account had been a “mere oversight,” adding that clients’ money needs to be treated with “utmost care.”
It found it “difficult to believe” that Mr Lim, who has practised law for three decades, “did not know of the requirement to have a client account, or that he had to pay client’s money into this account”.
The Court of Three Judges, the highest disciplinary body for lawyers, will later decide if Mr Lim will face disciplinary action. /TISG