Ho Pak Wa (1st Respondent) and Poon Fung Chi Farah (2nd Respondent) formerly solicitors of Messrs. Alan Ho & Co. (intervened firm) (“the Firm”)

Rules 2(d) and (e) and 4A of the Solicitors’ Practice Rules (“SPR”)

• Rules 7, 9A, 10(1), 10(2), 10(3), 10A and 11 of the Solicitors’ Accounts Rules (“SAR”)

• Section 8AA of the Legal Practitioners Ordinance (Cap.159)(“LPO”)

• Principles 2.04 and 6.04 of The Hong Kong Solicitors’ Guide to Professional Conduct, Volume 1 (3rd Edition) (“Guide”)

• Common law offence of misconduct

Hearing date: 29 October 2018

Findings and Order: 30 May 2019

On 29 October 2018, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (“Tribunal”) found the following complaints against the Respondents proved:

Complaint 1

Breach of Rule 10(1) of the SAR, in that the Respondents failed to keep at all times properly written up books and accounts to show all dealings with clients’ money held, received or paid by them, and any other money dealt with by them, through the client accounts of the Firm, in respect of the period from 1 January 2013 to 29 February 2016.

Complaint 2

Breach of Rule 10(2) of the SAR, in that the Respondents failed to ensure that all dealings with clients’ money held, received or paid by them, and any other money dealt with by them through the client accounts of the Firm, were recorded within three working days after the date of such dealings, in a clients’ cash book and clients’ ledger, in respect of the period from 1 January 2013 to 29 February 2016.

Complaint 3

Breach of Rule 10(3) of the SAR, in that the Respondents failed to ensure that all dealings relating to their practice as solicitors, other than those under Rule 10(1)(a) of the SAR, were recorded, before the end of the month following the month in which the dealings were carried out, in a separate cash book and ledger, in respect of the period from 1 January 2013 to 29 February 2016.

Complaint 4

Breach of Rule 10A of the SAR, in that the Respondents failed to prepare any reconciliation statement with regard to the Firm’s client accounts, in respect of the period from 1 January 2013 to 29 February 2016.

Complaint 5

Breach of Rule 11 of the SAR, in that the Respondents failed to produce for inspection documents that the Respondents had been requested to produce in relation to the Firm’s accounts.

Complaint 6

Breach of Rule 7 of the SAR, in that there were 19 separate occasions on which the balance of the Firm’s client accounts became overdrawn, so that the amounts that were withdrawn from the Firm’s client accounts exceeded the total money held for the time being in such accounts on account of clients’ money, as revealed from those banks statements of the Firm’s client accounts as produced by the Firm.

Complaint 7

Breach of Rule 7 of the SAR, in that there were 88 separate occasions on which the money drawn by the Respondents from the Firm’s client accounts, in respect of a particular client, exceeded the total of the money held by the Firm for the time being in such accounts on account of that particular client. The total of these 88 occasions was in the sum of $27,062,303.55, as shown in the Firm’s listing of clients’ ledgers, known as “Client Audit List”, of the Firm’s Tsim Sha Tsui office and the Firm’s Yau Ma Tei office as at 21 March 2016.

Complaint 8

Breaches of Rule 9A and in particular, Rule 9A(2) of the SAR, in that the Respondents failed, and have continued to fail, to rectify the breaches of the SAR referred to in Complaints 1 to 7, promptly upon discovery. In particular, the Respondents failed, and have continued to fail, to replace the apparently missing clients’ money in the sum of HK$1,437,445,763.63 [i.e. HK$1,476,419,399.52 (the amount of clients’ money which the Firm should have been holding at the date of the intervention of the practice of the Firm as shown in the Libra System) less HK$38,973,635.89 (the total amount standing in all of the client accounts of the Firm)].

Complaint 9

Breaches of section 8AA of the LPO and Rules 2(d) and 2(e) of the SPR, in that the Respondents failed to comply fully with paragraphs (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the Notices of Inspection dated 30 March 2016.

Complaint 10

Breaches of Rule 4A of the SPR and Principle 2.04 of the Guide, in that the Respondents failed to ensure that every office where the Firm practised was and could reasonably be seen to be properly supervised and managed.

Complaint 11 (against the 1st Respondent only)

Breach of Principle 6.04 of the Guide, in that the 1st Respondent failed to reply fully and promptly to the Law Society’s various letters regarding various complaints lodged against the Firm.

Complaint 12 (against the 1st Respondent only)

Breach of Rule 2(d) of the SPR, in that the 1st Respondent had on four occasions, failed to comply with paragraph 2 of the resolutions of the Investigation Committee of the Law Society in which he was requested to submit his explanation within the stipulated time, as particularised in the four letters of disapproval issued by the Law Society to the Respondent.

Complaint 13

The Respondents did commit the common law disciplinary offence of misconduct, in that the Respondents’ actions reasonably would be regarded as disgraceful, dishonourable or discreditable.

On 30 May 2019, the Tribunal made the following orders:

(1) the 1st Respondent is to be:

1. censured and fined HK$100,000 in respect of Complaints 1, 2 and 3;

2. censured and fined HK$20,000 in respect of Complaint 4;

3. suspended from practising as a solicitor for 12 months and fined HK$50,000 in respect of Complaint 5;

4. struck off the Roll of Solicitors and fined HK$150,000 in respect of Complaints 6 and 7;

5. fined HK$80,000 in respect of Complaint 8; and

6. censured and fined HK$100,000 in respect of Complaints 9, 10, 11 
and 12.

(2) the 2nd Respondent is to be:

1. censured and fined HK$100,000 in respect of Complaints 1, 2 and 3;

2. censured and fined HK$20,000 in respect of Complaint 4;

3. suspended from practising as a solicitor for 12 months and fined HK$50,000 in respect of Complaint 5;

4. struck off the Roll of Solicitors and fined HK$150,000 in respect of Complaints 6 and 7;

5. fined HK$80,000 in respect of Complaint 8; and

6. censured and fined HK$50,000 in respect of Complaints 9 and 10.

(3) there is no additional order made under Complaint 13.

(4) fixed costs of these proceedings, including the costs incurred by the Law Society in investigating the matter and the costs of these proceedings; the Prosecutor’s costs and disbursements and the costs of the Clerk to the Tribunal be paid in full by the Respondents.

Mr. Glenn Haley, Prosecutor for the Applicant, the Law Society of Hong Kong

The Respondents were absent for the hearing

Mr. Patrick M K Hui, Clerk to the Tribunal

Tribunal Members:

Mrs. Cheung Po-yee Peggy (Chairlady)

Ms. Chow Kim, Christine

Mr. Kwok Ngok-chung, Dick

Jurisdictions: