I don't know what devil got into me, says lawyer
Austin Chiu and Thomas Chan
One of Australia's largest casino operators was among the 92 victims of an HK$8.5 billion scam orchestrated by a now-disgraced lawyer. Four Hong Kong-listed companies and corporate high-flyers were also duped.
Before he was jailed for 12 years yesterday, Navin-kumar Aggarwal, 47, wrote a letter to the K&L Gates law firm of which he was a former partner, confessing his crime.
"I don't know what devil got into me," he said.
In a coincidence, one of Aggarwal's unsuspecting victims is Australian casino operator Crown Melbourne, which holds an equity interest in Melco Crown Entertainment - at whose Macau casino he gambled away HK$10 million in a day.
Crown Melbourne contributed to the HK$8 billion the 92 potential investors deposited with the law firm to prove they had sufficient funds or to secure a place in business opportunities that Aggarwal falsely claimed were available, the Court of First Instance heard.
Records show K&L Gates has sued Melco Crown to retrieve at least HK$9.9 million that the firm says Aggarwal misappropriated to gamble at the casino.
Among the potential investors are listed companies Col Capital, which is active in securities trading and investments; property developers Nan Hai and Wang On; and New Smart Energy, which trades energy, court documents show.
Individuals include Selene Ng Sau-ling, former partner of law firm Wilkinson & Grist; and Darius Yuen Lai-yan, non-executive director of listed Milan Station.
Pan Sutong, chairman of Goldin Properties; Carol Tin Yuen-sin, former chairwoman of Carnival Group International and Savio Kwong Chi-shing, shareholder of the Millennium Group, also fell victim to the scheme.
In a letter of confession addressed to David Tang, Asia managing partner of K&L Gates, Aggarwal wrote: "I am really sorry about everything … 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. I am 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 don't know what devil got into me. Sorry."