Victorian solicitor removed from roll following ‘theft, fraud and forgery’

Victorian solicitor removed from roll following ‘theft, fraud and forgery’

28 October 2021 By Naomi Neilson
Melbourne

A solicitor who admitted to theft, fraud, forgery and misappropriation of trust funds following a history of creating false emails, calls, money transfers and documents to cover up his mistakes with clients will be removed from the roll of practitioners.

The Victorian Supreme Court made the order to remove solicitor Ke Yuan Tan from the roll after finding that he is not a fit and proper person to be a legal practitioner and “will likely remain so for the indefinite future”. The finding follows three episodes of misconduct that all similarly involve forged documents and lies to clients.

The first two episodes involved corresponding with the Victorian Commissioner for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) on the transfers of liquor licenses for his clients. In the first, Mr Tan falsely stated that a completed license form had been submitted and then later created a false email stating “conditional approval”.

In the second, Mr Tan submitted the form for another client but was told by VCGLR that they could not accept it due to incomplete sections. Rather than inform the client to amend the mistake, Mr Tan told them that there was “no problem” and that he was “not sure why it was taking so long” for VCGLR to send over the approval.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Sometime later, Mr Tan created a document purporting to be a liquor license and then provided a copy of this false license to the client. When he was informed that VCGLR would conduct an investigation, Mr Tan said it was a VCGLR mistake.

The more extreme of the three episodes of misconduct took place after Mr Tan had surrendered his practising certificate in January 2017. He was still working at the same firm as a “volunteer paralegal” until May 2017 and, in that capacity, was given carriage of a matter relating to a claim for compensation.

Mr Tan did not file the required documents and, when confronted by the client about an unpaid deposit he was expecting, Mr Tan drew a cheque in the sum of $15,000 from his own personal account to transfer to the client as part of the owed sum.

After being contacted by the client demanding the release of the remaining $165,000 from the deposit, Mr Tan went into his boss’ office while he was not present, took a blank cheque from the firms’ trust account and filled out the $165,000 amount.

When his boss returned and questioned Mr Tan about the missing amount, Mr Tan first denied any knowledge about it. Later, after being asked to inform the client that the firm would need the money returned, Mr Tan instead rang the firm on a private number, identified himself as the client and claimed the money would be transferred.

SPONSORED CONTENT

In May 2017, when the firm still had not received the funds, Mr Tan’s boss rang the client directly and discovered that they had never spoken. Mr Tan, in a supposed response to this, transferred $50,000 from his own account to the general account.

That same month, Mr Tan signed a statement of admission of a “crime of theft, fraud, forgery and misappropriation of trust funds”. The following day he was interviewed by Victoria Police and later placed on a community correction order for two years.

“As indicated by the authorities, honesty is at the heart of the duties owed by legal practitioners to the court, to fellow practitioners and to clients. Without diminishing the seriousness of the other aspects of Mr Tan’s dishonesty revealed in the three episodes of misconduct … his conduct involved serious egregious failures to discharge this cardinal duty he owed,” the Victorian Supreme Court found.

The court also made a note that the most unusual feature of this misconduct is that there was no suggestion Mr Tan had derived any financial or other valuable benefit from the dishonesty. Rather, he instead sought to “avoid embarrassment in the face of the mistakes he had made at work”.

Victorian solicitor removed from roll following ‘theft, fraud and forgery’
Intro image
lawyersweekly logo