An accountant accused of siphoning off more than $40 million in one of the largest cases of financial crime here had his bail set at $1 million by the High Court yesterday, despite prosecutors having argued for it to be four times that amount.
Judge Choo Han Teck said it would be wrong to fix bail at a sum so "prohibitive" that it was as good as denying bail to Ewe Pang Kooi. Justice Choo accepted the arguments of Ewe's lawyer, Mr Peter Doraisamy, that the 61-year-old is not a flight risk and that his close friend, Ms Lee Siew Hua, who intends to post his bail, is able to raise only $1 million.
Ewe, the managing partner of certified public accounting firm Ewe, Loke & Partners, stands accused of misappropriating $40.6 million and US$147,000 (S$198,900) from 21 firms he was liquidating and one firm for which he was managing its finances.
Most of the funds - allegedly embezzled between February 2002 and July 2012 - were spent on gambling and paying off debts.
On Jan 14 this year, he was slapped with 693 charges, including those of criminal breach of trust, forgery, making false declarations, and using the benefits of his crimes at casinos. On the same day, Ewe was granted bail of $4 million by the district court.
But bail was set aside the next day after the prosecution applied for Ewe's case to be tried in the High Court, which can impose lengthier jail terms.
Ewe then made a new application to the High Court for bail.
At the hearing on Jan 20, Deputy Public Prosecutor Nicholas Khoo asked the High Court to maintain the previous sum of $4 million, pointing to the severity of the charges and the "colossal" amount of money involved.
The DPP said Ewe poses a serious fight risk as he has no roots here. His Australian wife and two children live overseas and he has no debt-free assets here as he was made a bankrupt in 2013.
But Mr Doraisamy argued that Ewe has lived in Singapore for more than 30 years and has cooperated with police investigations in the past two years.
Yesterday, Justice Choo noted that in cases of high flight risk, prosecutors tend to ask for bail to be set at an amount "impossible" to raise. He said this is wrong, adding that bail money is not the accused's but the bailor's, and the amount should be sufficient to ensure that the bailor does his job.
This article was first published on February 03, 2015.
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