SINGAPORE: At least five accused in Singapore’s landmark S$2.8 billion money laundering case have taken the step to replace their lawyers, purportedly due to dissatisfaction with their lawyers’ inability to secure bail for them from the judge.
As of now, none of the accused individuals in this significant case have been granted bail by the Singapore court.
On 16 August, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) announced a raid involving over 400 officers across the island in a crackdown on money laundering and forgery activities, resulting in the historic seizure of assets which shocked the entire Island.
Ten individuals, with diverse nationalities but a common Fujian heritage, were arrested and charged in court on 17 August with forgery, money laundering, and resisting arrest.
Reports from the Chinese media outlet 8World News suggested that some defendants expressed dissatisfaction with their original legal counsel and opted to replace them, hoping that new representation would successfully advocate for bail on their behalf.
According to records spanning three consecutive months of court proceedings and pre-trial meetings, as of Wednesday (15th November), at least five defendants have changed their legal representation.
These individuals include Lin Baoying, Wang Baosen, Chen Qingyuan, Wang Dehai, and Wang Shuiming.
Among them, 33-year-old Cambodian Chen Qingyuan has switched lawyers twice.
Initially represented by Denise Teo from Yuen Law, Chen then transitioned to lawyer Mark Tan from Focus Law Asia LLC, and subsequently, last month, sought representation from Gary Low from Drew & Napier, one of the prominent law firms.
Notably, Chen faced another setback on Friday (17 Nov) as his bail plea was rejected, citing concerns of flight risk, weak ties to Singapore, and alleged existing charges in China for fraud.
The most recent individual to change legal representation is Wang Baosen.
During the pre-trial meeting for his case held on Wednesday, Wang changed his representative lawyer from Adrian Wee of Lighthouse Law to Favian Kang Kok Boon from Adelphi Law Chambers LLC.”
Defendants allegedly believe high lawyer fees ensure bail
According to 8 World News, an unnamed lawyer disclosed that some defendants held the belief that their hefty lawyer fees could guarantee their release on bail.
At this juncture, hiring legal representation seems solely rooted in the hope that the lawyer can devise a strategy for securing their bail.
The lawyer expressed concern, stating a belief that the defendants lack a comprehensive understanding of local laws, expecting lawyers to handle everything without their cooperation.
The lawyer expressed that during meetings with the defendants to gather essential details, cooperation was notably lacking.
Consequently, when these lawyers appeared in court, they struggled to form persuasive arguments due to the absence of a reasonable foundation.
Moreover, the lawyer highlighted that their client asserted having an untainted record and no history of criminal activity abroad.
However, when the lawyer attempted to advocate for bail based on this assertion, the prosecution countered with an arrest warrant.
“This situation was deeply embarrassing. The claim of innocence could not serve as a valid argument. ”
“I felt confounded, almost questioning my own judgment. It’s a frustrating position to be in,” the lawyer lamented.
The lawyer indicated that due to the defendant’s lack of cooperation and honesty, there was a mutual agreement that they couldn’t continue to work together.
Eventually, the lawyer chose not to represent one of the defendants anymore.
Substantial legal expenses
The defendants embroiled in the S$2.8 billion money laundering case have engaged prominent legal representation, with the legal expenses involved being notably substantial.
An initial estimation indicates that the cumulative legal fees for each individual thus far span from tens of thousands to well over a hundred thousand Singapore dollars.
Certain lawyers disclosed that their clients encountered challenges in fulfilling their payment obligations.
An anonymous lawyer highlighted that this predicament predominantly stems from the freezing of the defendant’s assets, rendering it inconvenient for their family members to cover the legal fees or due to an insufficient amount of funds available.
Complicating matters further, lawyers are mandated to divulge the payer’s identity and the source of the funds upon fee collection.
This complexity has arisen in these financial “transactions.” Consequently, some lawyers assert they have yet to receive their fees and, consequently, have opted to discontinue representing the defendants.