The late Lee Kuan Yew's lawyer Kwa Kim Li will be facing a disciplinary tribunal over complaints about her handling of the late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew's wills.
Why is she facing a disciplinary tribunal?
A High Court judge on April 21, 2021 granted bids by siblings Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang for a disciplinary tribunal to investigate the alleged misconduct committed by Kwa.
Justice Valerie Thean ordered the Law Society to apply to the Chief Justice to appoint a disciplinary tribunal to look into two of the Lee siblings' complaints about Kwa's conduct.
Lee Kuan Yew's two younger children are the executors of his estate.
Who is Kwa Kim Li?
Kwa is the cousin of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
She is a maternal cousin of the Lees.
She was the former lawyer of the late Lee Kuan Yew.
She is a managing partner at Lee and Lee.
She had helped the late Lee draft six wills between Aug. 20, 2011 and Nov. 2, 2012.
But she did not prepare Lee's earliest will, dated Dec. 7, 1995, and his final will, dated Dec. 17, 2013.
What are the three complaints?
The tribunal has been asked to look into three complaints:
- Whether Kwa had failed to follow the instructions of the late Lee to destroy his superseded wills
- Whether she had breached her duties of confidentiality by sending records of her communications with the late Lee to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
- Whether she had given false and misleading information to the executors of the estate.
One complaint dismissed by High Court
A fourth complaint was dismissed by the High Court.
This relates to a complaint that Kwa had failed to keep proper contemporaneous notes and records of all the advice given and instructions received from their father.
Lee siblings lodged complaint more than a year ago
Lee Hsien Yang and Lee Wei Ling had first written to the Law Society on Sep. 15, 2019.
They complained that Kwa
1. failed to follow the late Lee's instructions to destroy his superseded wills
2. breached privilege and her duties of confidentiality by sending e-mails with records of communications with the late Lee to PM Lee
3. failed to keep proper contemporaneous notes and records of all the advice given and instructions received from the late Lee
4. had given false and misleading information to the executors in her June 4, 2015 and June 22, 2015 e-mails.
These complaints were investigated by an inquiry committee in 2019.
The inquiry committee initially recommended that the first and second complaints be referred to a disciplinary tribunal.
How three complaints came to be investigated?
Following queries by the Council of the Law Society, the inquiry committee ultimately determined that a disciplinary tribunal should only be convened for the second complaint regarding the breach of privilege and confidentiality, with the other three complaints dismissed.
In this latest development, Justice Thean asked the Law Society to initiate disciplinary proceedings over two more of the complaints.
These pertain to the instructions to destroy Lee Kuan Yew's wills and the provision of false and misleading information.
Justice Thean found that the information available was sufficient to establish a prima facie case of an ethical breach or misconduct of sufficient gravity that warrants formal investigation and consideration by a disciplinary tribunal.
Next step is to go with a disciplinary tribunal
Justice Thean ruled that it was "procedurally defective" of the Council of the Law Society to refer the matter back to the inquiry committee after its initial findings.
She said the Council of the Law Society had an "obligation" to accept the inquiry committee’s initial recommendation that there should be a formal investigation by a disciplinary tribunal in respect of the first complaint.
The judge added that since the inquiry committee had initially concluded that there was a case on these issues, its statutory role was "not to make a finding on this factual issue, but merely to channel it to the proper fact-finding body," which refers to the disciplinary tribunal.
Given that the Council of the Law Society was also faced with "two conflicting views" as to whether a case was made out on the first complaint, it ought to have concluded that a formal investigation by a disciplinary tribunal was necessary, the judge said.
This latest High Court order is another twist in the long-running Oxley Road saga.
The saga first erupted on June 14, 2017, when Lee Wei Ling and Lee Hsien Yang issued a joint statement of “no confidence” against PM Lee out of the blue.