Missing S$33m case: Singapore lawyer Jeffrey Ong denied bail again as judge calls defence arguments a ‘red herring’

A judge said that there was no reasonable explanation as to why Jeffrey Ong Su Aun (pictured) continue to be in possession of a stolen passport that was supposedly given to him without him asking for it. — Handout via TODAY
A judge said that there was no reasonable explanation as to why Jeffrey Ong Su Aun (pictured) continue to be in possession of a stolen passport that was supposedly given to him without him asking for it. — Handout via TODAY

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SINGAPORE, April 13 — The lawyer accused of misappropriating millions of dollars from his clients, and who was caught in Malaysia in 2019 with a stolen passport, was denied bail on Monday (April 12). This was even though his lawyer argued that the passport had been handed over to him by a friend when he had not asked for one.

Jeffrey Ong Su Aun, the former managing partner of law firm JLC Advisors, will continue to remain in remand. 

The 43-year-old is facing 76 charges — including cheating, forgery and criminal breach of trust as an attorney — in a case involving more than S$75 million (RM2321 million). He has been in remand since June 2019, following his arrest in a Kuala Lumpur hotel.

In making a case for bail to be granted to Ong, his lawyer Tan Hee Jeok had argued that Ong’s friend, one Calvin Lim, had lied to the police about Ong actively seeking the passport. 

 Tan also argued that Ong had not fled Singapore, but had gone to Malaysia to settle two work projects. 

Just before his arrest, Ong’s client, precision engineering firm Allied Technologies, had filed a police report over S$33.4 million having gone missing from its escrow account.

An escrow account is used predominantly by solicitors here to control the flow of funds during various stages of the transaction for a project, for instance, the sale of a property.

‘Not a sinister story’

In giving his final submissions for the bail review on Monday, Tan argued that this is “not a sinister story” despite what the prosecution has tried to portray using affidavits by the Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) of the Singapore Police Force. 

Lim had previously told CAD that he had bought the passport on the black market in China and given it to Ong over drinks in Singapore. 

Tan argued that Lim gave false information to CAD because he did not want to implicate the cousin of the passport holder and wanted to “shirk responsibility for his role”.

“Given that Mr Calvin Lim is clearly shown to be a liar, how he had procured this Malaysian passport, this claim that it was Mr Ong who wanted Mr Calvin Lim to procure this Malaysian passport must not be believed by this Honourable Court,” he said.

He further argued that the prosecution left several questions unanswered, including how the cousin of the passport holder is related to Lim, whether CAD had taken a statement from the cousin to verify Lim’s account, and when the passport was reported to be stolen if it were so.

As such, benefit of doubt should be given to Ong that the passport was simply “volunteered” to him over drinks, he said.

Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Nicholas Khoo called the defence’s submissions “misdirections” and said that a bail review application is not the appropriate forum in which to attack Lim.

As it stands, Ong has not satisfactorily explained why he was found with the stolen passport, DPP Khoo said. 

“Which reasonable person would accept a passport of unknown origin not belonging to him, much less a legally trained person like the accused?” he asked.

District Judge Terence Tay said that ultimately, the defence’s extensive submissions in relation to how Lim came into possession of the Malaysian passport was a “red herring”.

“Even if the accused’s version of how he came to be in possession of a Malaysian passport, even if that were to be believed and that it was unsolicited, there was no reasonable explanation as to why the accused continue to be in possession of the passport,” the judge said. — TODAY

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