Former lawyer who misappropriated more than $527,000 of client’s money receives more than 4 years in prison

SINGAPORE – A former lawyer was sentenced to four years and four months in jail and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine on May 3 after she misappropriated more than $527,000 from a client who was of borderline intellectual functioning.

Soraya Hafsa Ibrahim, 58, who used her ill-gotten gains for personal expenses and debt repayment, pleaded guilty in April to two counts of breach of trust.

She also admitted one count of preparing legal documents and accepting fees after being disbarred as a solicitor in 2020.

In earlier proceedings, defense attorneys Shashi Nathan and Harjeet Kaur told the court that she had not been motivated by greed but had wanted to help her son, who was nearly $600,000 in debt.

Before handing down the sentence on May 3, Senior District Judge Jill Tan noted that Soraya had made full restitution.

However, the judge emphasized that in cases involving lawyers committing a breach of trust offence, the primary sentencing consideration is general deterrence to reflect the seriousness of such offences.

Judge Tan also said the case involved a vulnerable victim and the former lawyer was aware of his mental state.

Soraya, who was the sole owner and sole attorney of Soraya H. Ibrahim & Co, was retained by the victim identified in court documents as V1.

In 2019, V1 hired her to assist him with legal matters related to the administration of his late mother’s estate.

The court heard that V1 does not have an intellectual disability, but has below average cognitive ability. He was also partially dependent on a caretaker, who watched over him and cooked for him.

Despite this, the Institute of Mental Health considered him suitable to be administrator of his mother’s estate.

After a bank account was opened and funds from the estate’s assets were deposited into it, Soraya began thinking about using the money in that account to help her overcome her financial difficulties, prosecutors said.

Soraya asked V1 to sign checks which she used to withdraw a total of $527,002 from her account, depositing the cash into her own account.