Law firm: ex-partner admitted he stole funds

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 August, 2011, 12:00am
 

A lawyer accused of theft and forgery admitted he stole millions to settle his gambling debts, a court heard yesterday.

In a letter to international law firm K&L Gates, former partner Navin Kumar Aggarwal confessed he had taken money which the firm held for clients because of his gambling habit, the firm's lawyers told a Court of First Instance hearing.

The US law firm, which has about 2,000 lawyers in 37 offices across three continents, had earlier taken action to sue the former partner and secured an asset-freezing injunction against Aggarwal, who is a Hong Kong resident.

Aggarwal's lawyers applied in court yesterday to have about HK$3.7 million released from his accounts to settle legal bills arising from criminal and civil litigation.

Objecting to the application, Victor Dawes, lawyer for the US firm, said Aggarwal had admitted in the letter he had carried out a 'systematic scheme that had taken place over a number of years' to cover gambling debts he had incurred. He also described the application to release frozen assets as extraordinary.

Deputy Judge Queeny Au Yeung Kwai-yue reserved her judgment, which is scheduled to be handed down tomorrow.

In June, 44-year-old Aggarwal was charged with three counts of theft and three of forgery. He was accused of stealing about HK$16.6 million from K&L Gates between January 13 and July 21 last year.

The alleged crime involved three individual transfers of HK$8 million, US$463,768 and HK$5 million.

Aggarwal allegedly falsified three letters he purported had been issued by RIM China, authorising him to transfer the company's money held with the law firm to Wynn International Marketing. Records showed that Wynn International Marketing was a subsidiary of Macau casino operator Wynn Resorts.

Aggarwal did not enter a plea. He will next appear in Eastern Court on August 22. He has resigned from the law firm.

Since July, K&L Gates has been sued by different companies for failing to return funds it held in trust, which are believed to have been misappropriated by Aggarwal.

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