Veteran lawyer gets 5 years jail and RM3.9mil fine for taking client’s money

KUALA LUMPUR: A veteran lawyer was fined RM3.9mil and sentenced to five years jail for swindling his client of a multi-million civil suit award he fought a decade to win.

Sessions Court judge Mat Ghani Abdullah found R. Arunachalam, 69, guilty of criminal breach of trust (CBT) involving RM2.14mil resulting from a civil suit awarded by the Federal Court, in 2009.

"The defence has failed to raise reasonable doubt against the prosecution's case," ruled Mat Ghani.

The judge also convicted Arunachalam of 10 counts of money laundering, for misappropriating the sum from his client's account over a period of time between Oct 15 and Nov 18, 2009.

The offences under Section 4(1)(a) of the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 were committed at Maybank Berhad and Affin Bank Berhad branches on Jalan Bunus off Jalan Masjid India, here between Oct 15 and Nov 18 2009. 

Counsel K K Lim pleaded for leniency, citing his client's ailing health - diabetes, a heart condition and spinal injury - plus his advanced age.

"Arunachalam handled the case for 10 years, fighting for his client all the way to the Federal Court. But because of this case, he has been disbarred and unemployed since," said Lim.

Arunachalam, a lawyer for 33 years, was disbarred in March 2011 from his firm, Arun & Co. He appealed but the Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld the Bar Council's decision.

On Tuesday, he stepped forward to deliver his own mitigation.

Putting several bags of medication and holding up an X-ray of his spinal injury, Arunachalam said he could "fall ill and die in prison" if he did not have access to his medication.

"I've done many high profile case and believe that I've done more good than the bad of this one incident," he submitted, calling the crime an "unfortunate event".

He went on to justify taking the money out of his clients account, claiming that a third party was trying to make a grab for the awarded sum.

However, the court reminded Arunachalam to stick to mitigation, as the defence stage had long since passed.

Deputy public prosecutor Amira Sariaty Zainal said that while Arunachalam's health was a factor, it did not mean he should get a free pass from punishment.

"His victim was illiterate, and trusted him fully to protect his interests. But to this day, none of the money has been returned," said Amira, adding that, as a lawyer, Arunachalam should have not exactly what was at stake if he commit such a crime.

Arunachalam was heard sobbing as he spoke to his wife and children, while the court deliberated on the quantum of punishment.

The court sentenced Arunachalam to five years prison for the CBT charge, and between one and three years prison for each of the 10 counts of money laundering, ordering the jail terms to run concurrently.


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Court and crime , R. Arunachalam , CBT


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