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The Singapore Law Gazette

Disciplinary Tribunal Reports

Pursuant to section 93(5) of the Legal Profession Act, the Council of the Law Society is required to publish the findings and determination of the Disciplinary Tribunal in the Singapore Law Gazette or in such other media as the Council may determine to adequately inform the public of the same.

This summary is published pursuant to the requirement of section 93(5) of the Legal Profession Act.

In the Matter of Kwa Kim Li (Respondent), Advocate & Solicitor

These proceedings arose out of a complaint by Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Dr Lee Wei Ling (the Complainants), both executors of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s estate, on 9 September 2019. There were initially four heads of complaint, including that the Respondent had:

  1. Failed to follow the instructions of the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew (the Testator) to destroy his superseded wills (the First Complaint);
  2. Breached privilege and her duties of confidentiality by sending emails with records of communications with the Testator to Mr Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) who was not an executor of the estate of the Testator (the Estate) (the Second Complaint);
  3. Failed to keep proper contemporaneous notes and records of all the advice given to and instructions received from the Testator (the Third Complaint); and
  4. Given false and misleading information to the executors in her emails of 4 June 2015 and 22 June 2015 (the Fourth Complaint).

Council determined that there should be a formal investigation by the Disciplinary Tribunal (DT) only on the Second Complaint. The Complainants, being dissatisfied with the Council’s determination, applied to the High Court for an order to direct Law Society to appoint a DT for the First and Fourth Complaints as well.

The Chief Justice empaneled a DT presided by Mr Narayanan Sreenivasan, SC and Mr Tan Kheng Ann Alvin as DT member.


The Respondent plead guilty to a charge prosecuted by the Law Society (the Law Society’s Charge), and contested a charge prosecuted by the Complainants (the Complainants’ Charge):

Law Society’s Charge

You, KWA KIM LI, an Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore, are charged that you on or about the 4th day of June 2015 by your letter dated 4th June 2015 sent to Mr Lee Hsien Loong (LHL) are guilty of knowingly disclosing to LHL, without the consent / authority of the two Executors and Trustees named in Will No. 7 namely Ms Lee Wei Ling (LWL) and Mr Lee Hsien Yang (LHY), the following documents and information which was confidential to your client, Mr Lee Kuan Yew (Mr Lee), and which was acquired by you in the course of your engagement as Mr Lee’s solicitor namely; five of the previous Wills of Mr Lee prepared by you upon his instructions and email trails between Mr Lee and you from 11th December 2011 to 2nd November 2012 (Documents Set A) and explanations as to why your client Mr Lee changed his previous Wills which amounts to misconduct unbefitting of an advocate and solicitor as an officer of the Supreme Court or as a member of an honourable profession within the meaning of section 83(2)(h) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap. 161).

Complainants’ Charge

You, Mdm Kwa Kim Li, are charged that, by way of your letter 22 June 2015, you misled the Executors of the Estate of your former client Mr Lee Kuan Yew, namely Dr Lee Wei Ling and Mr Lee Hsien Yang, by omitting to disclose your communications with Mr Lee Kuan Yew between November 2013 and 13 December 2013 in response to their enquiries and by making the false and misleading representation that Mr Lee Kuan Yew had never instructed you to change his will dated 2 November 2012, such act amounting to misconduct unbefitting an advocate and solicitor as an officer of the Supreme Court within the meaning of section 83(2)(h) of the Legal Profession Act (Cap. 161, 2009 Rev Ed).

Findings and Determination of the DT; Council’s Sanctions

Law Society’s Charge

The DT accepted that the Respondent was replying to queries by Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Ms Lee Wei Ling under the notion that she ought to respond to queries from beneficiaries, who also happened to be her first cousins with whom she grew up. The DT also accepted that the Testator had previously indicated to her that he would inform his children of his intentions and the reasons for his testamentary dispositions. The DT further accepted that the Respondent had a close personal relationship with the Testator.

The DT found that there was no evidence suggesting that the Respondent was acting from any improper motives. However, it would have been clear to the Respondent that she was dealing with sensitive family issues. The Respondent was aware that Ms Lee Wei Ling had previously voiced unhappiness on the change from a position where she has a slightly larger share to equal shares. The DT noted that in such situations, it is imperative that solicitors act strictly within their professional boundaries and exercise care and caution. The Respondent’s misconduct was her failure to scrupulously safeguard the Testator’s confidentiality; and this misconduct was unbefitting of an advocate and solicitor.

Pursuant to section 93(1)(b)(i) of the LPA, the DT determined that, while there is no cause of sufficient gravity for disciplinary action under Section 83 of the Legal Profession Act (Act), the Respondent should be ordered to pay a penalty in the sum of $5,000.

The DT opined that it did not think that a low culpability – low harm situation involving misconduct under section 83(2)(h) of the Act was one that should be referred to the Court of Three Judges, particularly in the absence of any dishonesty or deceit, or gross negligence.

Complainants’ Charge

The DT found that the Respondent’s omission to disclose the emails of 30 November 2013 and 12 December 2013 in her email of 22 June 2015 is misleading. The DT further found that the Respondent’s statement in the same email, that she did not receive any instructions from the Testator to change his Will, was false.

However, the DT did not find proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the Respondent knowingly or deliberately misled the Complainants. The DT assessed the harm as low, and found that the culpability was low to medium.

Nevertheless, the DT noted that the Respondent was communicating with the beneficiaries on matters important to them, and since she had chosen to respond to the queries, it was therefore incumbent upon the Respondent to be complete and accurate in her response. The DT found that had the Respondent exercised due care and diligence, she ought to have disclosed the November / December 2013 communications in the 22 June 2015 email, and ought not to have stated that she had received no instructions to change the Testator’s Will.

Pursuant to section 93(1)(b)(i) of the LPA, the DT determined that, while there is no cause of sufficient gravity for disciplinary action under section 83 of the Act, the Respondent should be ordered to pay a penalty in the sum of $8,000.


The DT ordered that the Respondent pay: (a) the Law Society’s costs in the sum of $5,000 and to bear all disbursements that have been reasonably incurred which are to be taxed if parties are not able to agree; and (b) the Complainants’ costs in the sum of $12,000 and disbursements in the sum of $9,182.29.

Council’s Decision

Council adopted the DT’s findings and imposed a global financial penalty of $13,000 (being $5,000 for the Law Society’s Charge and $8,000 for the Complainants’ Charge) on the Respondent.

To access the full report, click here.

The Law Gazette is the official publication of the Law Society of Singapore.