27th January 2021 – (Hong Kong) Ng Wing Hung, the partner of Wong, Fung & Co law firm, which was taken over by the Hong Kong Law Society for allegedly violating the Lawyers’ Accounting Rules filed for judicial review and requested the overturn of the takeover decision. He then applied to the court for interim relief and asked the court to request Hong Kong Law Society to issue an order to release the frozen funds and related documents deposited by the clients from December last year to February this year and hand over the case to another lawyer for processing in order to allow the clients to complete the transactions. After hearing the submissions today (27th), the judge agreed that there is only the accusation made by the applicant, but there was no detailed response from the Law Society, and it was not suitable for the court to issue an order for temporary relief. The application was hence rejected.
However, the judge agreed that the interests of the clients involved in the case need to be taken care of and that the case needs to be handled as soon as possible. Therefore, it is scheduled to process the aforementioned judicial review application on 11th February. It is estimated that it will take one day, and the applicant can then apply for interim relief. The lawyer of the applicant stated that as many as 900 clients were unable to complete the sale transactions of residential and commercial properties because the money deposited by the clients into Wong, Fung & Co was frozen at the same time. Some clients jointly signed a petition that the judge could consider their interests and provide appropriate relief. The lawyer also stated that the Law Society had been investigating for six months before taking over Wong, Fung & Co.
On the one hand, Wong, Fung & Co claimed that the law firm had a shortfall of HK$23 million and that a former clerk had stolen the client’s money, but on the other hand, the truth is that the clerk only stole about HK$6 million and the HK$23 million was not affected. Also, the Law Society has not presented any substantive evidence accusing Wong, Fung & Co of dishonesty. The lawyer admitted that Wong, Fung & Co had mismanagement issues, but the firm has not acted dishonestly. At present, he only wants to protect the interests of innocent clients.
Wong, Fung & Co was accused of dishonest misappropriation of client’s money by a former clerk, and severely violated the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules, including over drafting client money and allowing unqualified persons to become signatories of client accounts. The practice has been suspended immediately. On 31st December, more than 10 clients went to their office to Central to understand the situation. Many had their deposits for purchase of properties frozen.
The employees were also owed one month’s salary and allowances, involving an amount of more than HK$300,000. Representatives from the labour union accompanied these employees to the Labour Relations Division of the Labor Department to pursue the case.