Lawyer struck off the rolls over loans

In two months, lawyer Ong Teck Ghee borrowed $1.3 million from two clients for purported investments in business projects - even though professional rules forbid him from taking loans from them.

Yesterday, Mr Ong, a former president of Warren Golf & Country Club, was struck off the rolls for professional misconduct by a Court of Three Judges.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the level of Mr Ong's deceit constituted dishonesty and that he "does not deserve to wear the robes" of a lawyer.

The Law Society, represented by Mr William Ong and Mr Aaron Lee, had brought two cases of borrowing by Mr Ong, who practised for 29 years before he was made a bankrupt last year, to the court.

In the first case, Mr Ong borrowed $650,000 from Ms Zhao Qian, whom he tried to interest in a "government vaccination project", dropping the names of two ministers.

In November 2011, she agreed to lend him $150,000, for which he was to repay her $204,000. In January 2012, they signed a second loan agreement to lend him $500,000; he was to repay her $1 million.

Mr Ong issued her post-dated cheques as repayment. But she got back only $51,500 as the cheques bounced or he stopped payment. Last August, a disciplinary tribunal found him guilty on two charges of prohibited borrowing.

In the second case, he borrowed $680,000 from Ms Caron Veronica Batchelor, an acquaintance, to finance his efforts to promote a smallpox vaccine made by a Danish bio-pharmaceutical company.

Ms Batchelor signed agreements with his now-defunct law firm Ong & Lau to lend him $400,000 in December 2011 and $280,000 in January 2012.

Out of the $680,000 she lent Mr Ong, $280,000 came from a Ms Tang Yi Ling. When Ms Tang realised that she did not have an independent right to get a refund from him, she complained to the Law Society.

Last October, a disciplinary tribunal found him guilty on two charges of prohibited borrowing, two charges of failing to tell Ms Tang to seek independent legal advice and a charge of failing to record these deals in his firm's books.

This article was first published on May 30, 2015.
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