Blogger pays PM suit costs after stand-off with lawyer

Blogger pays PM suit costs after stand-off with lawyer

SINGAPORE - After two missed deadlines and a public spat between blogger Roy Ngerng and his lawyer yesterday, Mr Ngerng finally paid the $29,000 in costs he owed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, whom he had defamed.

In several statements that flew back and forth, Mr Ngerng and lawyer M. Ravi blamed each other for the tardiness in payment.

Their exchange was sparked by a statement Mr Ravi sent to the media, declaring that Mr Ngerng has taken the $29,000 and "remains uncontactable".

He added: "Our client Roy Ngerng has not been at all timely in paying the costs of $29,000 even after we refunded him the money urgently at his request."

But Mr Ngerng, in a blow- by-blow account of events, countered that it was Mr Ravi who had returned him the money of his own accord and asked him to make the payment directly to Mr Lee's law firm Drew & Napier.

The amount is for legal fees and related expenses the High Court had ordered Mr Ngerng to pay Mr Lee last month.

It had ruled last November that Mr Ngerng had defamed Mr Lee by suggesting that the Prime Minister had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings.

Damages to be paid to Mr Lee have yet to be assessed.

In seeking payment of the costs, Mr Lee's lawyers first sent a letter to Mr Ravi for the sum to be paid by Jan 29. When the deadline was missed, another letter was sent on Jan 30 asking for payment to be made by Monday this week, said the Prime Minister's press secretary, Ms Chang Li Lin, in response to media queries yesterday. There were no replies to both letters, she added.

Mr Ngerng said he had handed the money to Mr Ravi on Jan 22, way before the payment was due on Jan 29. But he added that Mr Ravi did not transfer the sum to Drew & Napier by Monday.

"Ravi explained that he is in the midst of setting up his new firm and hasn't been able to process the payment to Drew & Napier yet. He handed me back the money and asked me to make the payment directly to Drew & Napier," Mr Ngerng said.

Mr Ravi, however, told The Straits Times he had returned the money as Mr Ngerng had insisted on "paying in cash" directly to Mr Lee's lawyers, "even though I had told him it was against solicitors' accounts rules".

After getting the money, Mr Ngerng called Drew & Napier on Tuesday to ask to make the payment in cash directly.

Ms Chang noted that "under the lawyers' professional rules, a lawyer cannot, without the consent of the opposite party's lawyer, deal directly with the opposite party". So Mr Lee's lawyers wrote to Mr Ravi the same day to ask if he would have any objections to them being paid directly by Mr Ngerng.

There was no reply to this letter as well, said Ms Chang, which is why Drew & Napier wrote another letter to Mr Ravi to ask that the payment be made by noon next Monday.

Mr Ngerng went to Drew & Napier's offices yesterday evening with the $29,000 in cash.

The firm again wrote to Mr Ravi, but did not get a reply, said Ms Chang. Later, around 7.30 pm, a representative from Mr Ravi's law firm called Drew & Napier to give approval, and Mr Ngerng handed over the money.

This article was first published on February 07, 2015.
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