Former K&L Gates Hong Kong partner sentenced to 12 years for fraud

Former Hong Kong partner of K&L Gates, Navin Kumar Aggarwal, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty over a HK$8bn (£665m) fraud and money laundering scheme to cover his gambling debts in Macau.

Judges in the High Court of Hong Kong handed down the sentence last week, citing Aggarwal’s misbehavior as Hong Kong’s worst case of embezzlement. According to local press reports, Aggarwal, 47, pleaded guilty in the Court of First Instance to two counts of fraud and one of money laundering in a scheme that caused losses for 92 potential investors, two clients and the law firm over a period of four years. The scheme is said to total at HK$8.5bn, with most of it being repaid to the victims.

The potential investors and the clients suffered actual losses of HK$572m. K&L Gates told the court that it had paid HK$83m in compensation to the clients and it is understood that the firm is facing legal claims from several other victims.

The court also heard that Aggarwal earned up to $1m a year but accumulated huge debts for his gambling addictions in casinos in Macau as he once gambled away HK$10m in a day.

Aggarwal, born in Hong Kong to an Indian family, was admitted as a solicitor in the city in 1992. He joined the legacy Preston Gates & Ellis’ Hong Kong office as a partner in 2000 and later become a partner of K&L Gates following the firm’s merger with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in 2007. He was formerly the head of K&L Gates’ corporate finance team in Hong Kong and a member of the firm’s betting and gaming practice.

Aggarwal resigned on 11 June 2011 following his arrest over the allegations and was charged with three counts each of theft and forgery on 24 June. He first appeared in court on 22 August 2011 and declared bankrupt by the High Court in August 2012.

In the civil case, Aggarwal was represented by barrister Kevin Hon from Liberty Chambers instructed by Gloria Chan & Co, and K&L Gates was represented by barrister Victor Dawes from Temple Chambers instructed by Robertsons Solicitors. Aggarwal was represented by barrister Graham Harris SC from Liberty Chambers in the criminal trail.