Stamp duty solace in law firm closure

Local | Wallis Wang 13 Jan 2021

Families affected by the closure of law firm Wong, Fung & Co could be spared from penalties if they pay stamp duties late, the Stamp Office said.

In a statement yesterday, the office said it would consider waiving the fines for affected clients if they fail to pay their stamp duties in time.

Victims may file an application with the office themselves or through their newly appointed lawyers, it said.

Those who are unable to pay their stamp duty due to the freezing of funds can also apply for payment by installments.

Wong, Fung & Co at Far East Consortium Building in Central was closed on December 24 after the Law Society found a former clerk had misappropriated money belonging to clients.

Clients told The Standard yesterday the assistance offered can only help a few of them as many families paid their stamp duty last week after taking out loans.

The most important thing is when the families can get their money back, they said.

However, society president Melissa Pang Kaye said there is no timetable for the unfreezing of the money.

Pang said yesterday the money can only be unfrozen after an intervention agent, Chui & Lau Solicitors & Notaries, finishes verification by looking into the firm's accounts and obtains the court's approval.

She added that the firm's accounts were disorganized and incomplete, and investigators are doing the best they can to help the affected clients. Pang said the investigators will handle victims' cases based on their urgency.

She also said the society cannot provide any legal advice and urged affected families to find their own lawyers.

Intervening in the case and closing the firm was the only option the society could take as a regulatory body considering the seriousness of the breaches the firm had committed, Pang said.

But clients last night criticized the society for being unhelpful and showing no care for their plight.

"The society has intervened in 22 law firms' business since 2009, but they haven't provided the basic claim form for us," they said. "Its process is not transparent."

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