Macau casino sued in law firm theft case
The Hong Kong branch of an international law firm founded by Bill Gates' father has spent nearly HK$200 million on restitutions after a former partner allegedly took clients' money to fund his gambling habit in Macau.
The firm, K&L Gates, is also taking action against the casino, which it claims was aware that the funds had been misappropriated.
K&L Gates says the ex-employee, Navin Kumar Aggarwal, wrote a letter of confession after resigning last June, saying: 'I don't know what the devil got into me.'
It filed a writ at the High Court earlier this week against Melco Crown Gaming (Macau), which runs the City of Dreams and Altira Macau casinos. The firm is seeking a court order to find out how much of Melco's property represents money that Aggarwal took, or his net winnings, or both, and to have Melco pay what it owes.
Four clients had been repaid a total of HK$117 million, the writ said. The clients are Hui Kau-mo, Mark Lightbown, Golden Bridge United Holdings Group (HK), and Laxmi Niwas Jhunjhunwala. The filing says Aggarwal took millions of dollars from the escrow accounts of clients, including those four parties.
Aggarwal, who became a partner in 2000, resigned in June last year. He was subsequently charged with three counts of theft and three counts of forgery that allegedly took place from January to July 2010.
Initially the figure involved was put at HK$16.6 million. Prosecutors later revised it to HK$780 million.
The criminal case is scheduled for a brief hearing on April 2 at Eastern Court.
In the filing, the firm says Aggarwal transferred at least HK$34 million from the client accounts to Melco and gambled with that money and other funds. He made a net loss of at least HK$9.9 million, the firm says.
K&L Gates says Melco received the misappropriated money knowing it was not entitled to do so, that the money did not belong to Aggarwal and that the former partner had a history as an unsuccessful gambler, among other things.
The law firm has been sued for the return of funds it held in trust, which Aggarwal is believed to have taken.
The filing also contains what the firm says is the confession Aggarwal sent to its Asia managing partner David Tang when he resigned.
'Dear David,' the letter reads, 'I am really sorry about everything. I am not sure if its possible but I really hope the firm survives all this caused by me. I know the gravity of the crime committed. I can't live with this.'
It adds: 'I am very sorry that you and the others have to face all this and clear the mess. The money that I stole was used to pay my gambling losses that I have accumulated over the years. I was using one 'escrow' to cover the other. I don't know what the devil got into me. Sorry.'
William Gates Sr, father of Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, was a founding partner at Preston Gates & Ellis, which merged with another law firm, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham, to form K&L Gates in 2007.