SINGAPORE (June 20): Jeffrey Ong Su Aun might be the managing director of law firm JLC Advisors. But as details of his escape to Malaysia were revealed, it would not have been difficult to imagine the 41-year-old as a character in a novel by his namesake, Jeffrey Archer.

In court on June 20, Ong faced 13 fresh charges of forgery for the purpose of cheating, bringing the total number of charges he faces to 22.

Ong is alleged to have falsified a series of documents to deceive one Chan Yi Zhang into believing that US$4.9 million ($6.6 million) was still held in escrow by JLC.

Ong was first charged on June 1 for cheating CCJ Investments of $6 million. On June 13, he was slapped with a further eight charges of forging document for the purpose of cheating three other clients of a total of $16 million.

See: 'Missing' JLC lawyer Jeffrey Ong arrested in Malaysia; charged in Singapore

See also: JLC lawyer Jeffrey Ong faces 8 more charges; to be remanded another week as more clients claim unauthorised transactions

Ong is also linked to the $33 million belonging to Allied Technologies that went missing in an escrow account in JLC.

See: Allied Tech files police report over unauthorised $33 mil payout by JLC MD Ong

See also: Allied Tech's $130 mil purchase of dorm operator aborted amid news of missing funds

The law firm had written to Allied Tech saying it had reasons to believe that a $33 million payout from its escrow account, as instructed by Ong, “might have been unauthorised”.

The Commercial Affairs Department on May 21 received a complaint lodged against Ong for alleged criminal breach of trust.

This was just a day after Ong abruptly resigned via email as non-executive chairman of Annica Holdings, citing personal reasons.

See: Annica chairman Ong quits just as JLC senior partner goes missing with $33 mil of clients' money

Annica was one of the companies whose directors were linked to alleged 2013 penny stock crash mastermind John Soh Chee Wen and his co-accused, Quah Su-Ling.

As the authorities launched an investigation into Ong, they realised that the lawyer had already skipped town over a week ago.

Straight out of a spy novel

After partners in his law firm pressed Ong into accounting for unauthorised withdrawals of clients’ monies, Ong quietly slipped into Malaysia on May 13.

Apart from his wife, Ong did not inform anyone else of his plans to travel to Malaysia.

Instead of leaving in his family car, which is registered in his wife’s name, Ong made arrangements with a friend, “Nicholas”, who obtained a private-hire car to drive Ong into Malaysia.

There, Ong met with another man, “Dennis”, who brought Ong to stay at his office for two to three days, before moving Ong to a hotel in Cheras, Vivatel Kuala Lumpur.

Ong was careful not pay for the hotel room using any of his credit cards. Instead, all the arrangement were made by “Dennis”.

Around the same time he moved into the hotel, Ong went incommunicado.

On May 16, Ong disposed of his Singapore mobile phone after removing the SIM card. He then asked “Dennis” to provide him with another mobile phone.

“Dennis” complied, and passed Ong a mobile phone with a SIM card. But before he used this phone, Ong removed this SIM card. Instead, he inserted a China SIM card that was in his possession.

Indeed, Ong could not be too careful. A warrant of arrest would later be issued against him on May 25, based on the holding charge of cheating CCJ Investments of $6 million.

It was at this hotel that Ong was eventually arrested by Malaysian police on May 29 – more than two weeks after he went “missing”.

When Ong was arrested, he was found to be in possession of a Malaysia passport which has previously been reported as stolen. The passport belonged to a 43-year-old Chinese male, whose photo bore some resemblance to Ong. Ong was unable to satisfactorily explain why he had the passport with him.

High flight risk

In court on June 20, Deputy public prosecutor Nicholas Khoo called for Ong to be denied bail. In support of this submission, the prosecution also tendered an affidavit by Bernard Kho Wee Chong, an investigation officer with the CAD’s Securities Fraud Division.

“The accused actions prior to his arrest lead me to believe that he is a high flight risk,” said Kho in his affidavit. “I have reason to believe that the accused has the knowledge and means to abscond effectively.”

Kho revealed that CAD has recorded 22 statements from Ong so far, and has also interviewed 15 other persons connected to the case.

“The investigation findings thus far reveal that the scheme and extent of the fraud perpetrated by the accused is far larger and more complex than what was initially reported in the police report,” Kho said.

He added that it is “likely” that Ong will face more charges involving other entities. No charges have been tendered yet over the unauthorised $33 million payout related to Allied Technologies.

Agreeing that Ong is “clearly… a high flight risk”, the judge denied the request for bail by Ong’s lawyer, Jennifer Sia.

Ong will return to court for the next mention on July 11.

For each count of cheating or forgery for the purpose of cheating, he could be jailed for up to 10 years and fined.