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Indian-origin lawyer in Singapore jailed for misappropriating clients fees


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SINGAPORE: An Indian-origin lawyer, working at a law firm in Singapore, was on Monday sentenced to two years and three months’ in jail for collecting legal fees totalling more than SGD 31,000 from his company's clients and transferring the money to his personal bank account.

Zaminder Singh Gill, 57, who was legal associate at Hilborne Law between 2016 and last year, also failed to register the clients with the firm, the Straits Times reported.
     
He transferred the money to his personal bank account and used his ill-gotten gains for family expenses, the report said.
     
He was sentenced on Monday to two years and three months’ jail after pleading guilty to five counts of criminal breach of trust as an attorney involving more than SGD 20,000. These charges were linked to five victims.
     
Ten other similar charges involving the remaining amount were considered during sentencing.

A representative from the law firm lodged a police report against Gill on July 18 last year on receiving a client’s complain.

The Hilborne representative said the clients “were not recorded in Hilborne’s client register, and the amount collected were not deposited into Hilborne’s client or office accounts”.

On Monday, DPP Chew urged District Judge Toh Yung Cheong to sentence Gill to at least two years and three months’ jail. She stressed that criminal breach of trust by lawyers is a “grave offence” and that he had made no restitution.

Defence lawyer R Shiever pleaded for judicial mercy and said his client was truly remorseful. Gill cried as he addressed the court and said that he had lost everything, the report said.

Gill was arrested when he returned to Singapore in October 2019 after holidays with his family. He later said he had used the legal fees he misappropriated on various family expenses, the report said. He has not made any restitution to Hilborne Law for his offences.
     
Gill was called to the Singapore Bar in 2005. Before handing down the sentence, Judge Toh said that such offences could undermine public confidence in the legal profession.
     
For each count of criminal breach of trust as an attorney, an offender can either be jailed for life or jailed for up to 20 years and fined. 

(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)