21 months’ jail for lawyer who took client’s money


HE was a former national football team manager, a grassroots leader for 18 years and a veteran lawyer but it all counted for nought when he was sentenced on a charge of criminal breach of trust yesterday. 

Tay Soo Wan, 50, who had pleaded guilty last month to pocketing S$46,015 (RM103,025) entrusted to him by a client, was sent to prison for 21 months on Wednesday, making him the fifth lawyer to be convicted in the past 12 months for misappropriating clients' money. 

Tay’s lawyer, Edmond Pereira, had said in mitigation that his client had neglected to look after his legal practice and the firm’s affairs because he was involved in public welfare activities. 

Tay was an assistant secretary of the Bedok citizens' consultative committee from 1989 to 1992 and a member till 1995; and treasurer of the Young PAP executive committee from 1988 to 1996. 

Between 1988 and 1997, he was a council member of the Football Association of Singapore. In 1991, he managed the national soccer team, which failed to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Malaysia Cup, prompting fans to give him the nickname “Tay-kosong”. This was a pun on the Malay phrase for plain tea without sugar or milk. 

He was also on the Singapore Turf Club’s management committee from 1996 to January last year. 

In passing sentence, district judge Jasvender Kaur noted that Tay had paid back the money, but gave very little weight to the contributions he had made to the community. 

Citing a precedent, the judge said that community service was a “weak factor” in criminal breach of trust cases. 

She added: “Society expects lawyers who are in a position of trust vis a vis their clients to conform to exacting standards of honesty.” 

Tay was found out when a client, Wong Tak Wa, reported to the police on April 29 last year that the lawyer, who was the sole proprietor of his firm, had failed to hand over S$46,015 to his former wife’s solicitor. – The Straits Times/ Asia News Network  

For another perspective from The Straits Times, a partner of Asia News Network, click here.

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