Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Man sues lawyer to recover $850k lost in property deal

A BUSINESSMAN who lost his investment in a property deal has sued the lawyer involved in the deal to get back $850,000.

Mr Satinder Singh Garcha said he was talked into investing $1 million and found after a week that only $50,000 was left.

In the lawsuit, which opened in the High Court yesterday, he alleged that the lawyer in question, Mr Uthayasurian Sidambaram, was instrumental in the loss of that money.

He claimed that Mr Uthayasurian was grossly negligent and had failed to advise him of the conflicts of interest in the case.

The lawyer, who had 18 years' experience, was suspended from practising for a year by a Court of Three Judges in May, in disciplinary proceedings over the same case.

In its written judgment, the court warned lawyers to avoid the pitfalls of situations in which they represent multiple clients in the same case.

Mr Uthayasurian had acted for multiple parties involved in a project to build on a plot of land in Tanglin Hill owned by the Brunei government.

Mr Singh not only put in the money in May 2006, but also authorised an undischarged bankrupt, Mr Louis Ang, to disburse the funds.

A week later, he found that most of the money had gone to other parts of the project and legal costs.

Mr Singh complained to the Law Society and also started a civil suit against Mr Uthayasurian to get back his investment.

The lawyer, who was paid legal fees of $100,000 out of the investment, has refunded the payment made to him, but Mr Singh wants the rest of his money back.

He claims that Mr Uthayasurian did not alert him to Mr Ang's status as a bankrupt, nor advise him about the risks of giving a bankrupt unfettered authority to handle money.

He contended that Mr Uthayasurian transferred the money on Mr Ang's instructions without telling him.

In fact, he claims that the lawyer was involved in a conspiracy with Mr Ang to defraud him of the money.

Mr Uthayasurian denies he and Mr Ang were in collusion to defraud Mr Singh, as they had separate roles in the project. He said Mr Singh was a seasoned businessman who was probably more aware of the risks of getting into such a project than he was.

The lawyer also disputes Mr Singh's claim that he was unaware of Mr Ang's status. He asserts that Mr Singh contributed to his own loss by choosing to authorise Mr Ang to disburse the money despite knowing he was bankrupt.

Mr Singh is represented by Mr Andre Maniam, while Mr Uthayasurian is represented by Mr N. Sreenivasan.

Source: Straits Times, 15 Sep 2009

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