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Ex-MP Chiang Hai Ding and son sued by son's former wife

Ex-MP Chiang Hai Ding and son sued by son's former wife

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 03 May 2023
Author: Selina Lum

Former MP and retired ambassador Chiang Hai Ding and his son Joon Arn are being sued by his son's former wife Sabrina Tan over the ownership of a pre-war shophouse in the Balestier conservation area that is estimated to be worth between $3 million and $4 million.

Former MP and retired ambassador Chiang Hai Ding is being sued by his former daughter-in-law over the ownership of a pre-war shophouse in the Balestier conservation area that is estimated to be worth between $3 million and $4 million.

The Martaban Road shophouse was bought in December 2009 for $2.1 million and registered in Dr Chiang’s name. He contributed $300,000 towards the down payment, while his son Joon Arn paid $520,000 and took out a $1.28 million mortgage loan.

Ms Sabrina Tan, who married Mr Chiang Joon Arn in December 2011 and filed for divorce in October 2020, contended in her lawsuit against father and son that the shophouse should be considered a matrimonial asset because Dr Chiang had bought the property on behalf of the couple.

She alleged that the property was bought in Dr Chiang’s name only because the couple could not buy a private property in their own names during the minimum occupancy period (MOP) of five years from the date they had collected the keys of their Housing Board unit at Pinnacle @ Duxton.

Ms Tan, 53, is seeking a court declaration that Dr Chiang, 85, holds the shophouse on trust for her and Mr Chiang, 50, who are the true beneficial owners of the property.

Father and son disagree with her, and assert that Dr Chiang is the sole legal and beneficial owner of the shophouse.

They said that except for identifying the shophouse and bringing it to the attention of Mr Chiang, whom she was dating at the time, Ms Tan was not involved in the acquisition, financing or administration of the property.

They contended that Mr Chiang had wanted to buy the property as a gift for his father.

The case, which opened for a six-day trial in the High Court on Tuesday, was spun off from the couple’s ongoing divorce proceedings following disagreements over whether the shophouse should be included in the pool of matrimonial assets.

Dr Chiang was the People’s Action Party MP for Ulu Pandan from 1970 to 1984 and served as Singapore’s ambassador to more than 10 countries, including the former Soviet Union.

Ms Tan worked as a chartered accountant and became a homemaker after marriage. Her late father, Mr Tan Eng Yoon, was a national athlete and coach who represented Singapore in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

Mr Chiang, also a chartered accountant, was a partner at Ernst & Young until the end of 2020.

Ms Tan said she gave up her career in 2002 and moved to the United States to live with Mr Chiang, who was posted there for work.

After they returned to Singapore, they bought a flat at Pinnacle @ Duxton in 2005.

She said they discussed buying a second property and, in 2009, she identified the shophouse as a suitable one, given its rarity, location and heritage.

She said the couple could not hold the property in their own names, so they approached their respective parents to ask if their names could be used instead.

She said Dr Chiang agreed for his name to be used and also contributed $300,000 to help the couple out.

Ms Tan, who was represented by Ms Melanie Ho, Mr Gavin Neo and Ms Jolyn Khoo, contended that the couple retained control over the property as the true owners.

She said Mr Chiang paid for the property tax and reimbursed his father for income tax payments, while she was responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the shophouse.

Ms Tan said the defendants’ contention that her former husband would contribute such a substantial sum to his father as a gift was “unbelievable”.

In 2009, Dr Chiang was 71 years old, an owner of multiple properties across the globe and a man of means, she pointed out. In comparison, the couple were just starting their lives together and planning for marriage.

She said Dr Chiang’s name remained on the title after the MOP expired in 2014 because the couple did not want to incur additional stamp duties and her former husband assured her that his father would leave the shophouse to them in his will.

She said her former husband also wanted to segregate his assets from exposure to creditors owing to his position.

The defendants, represented by Mr See Chern Yang and Ms Charmaine Chan, said Dr Chiang had told his son to keep a lookout for investment properties, especially shophouses, as it had always been his dream to own one.

They said Mr Chiang then told Ms Tan, his girlfriend at the time, who helped in the search.

They noted that no decision involving the property was ever made without Dr Chiang’s input and approval, and that Ms Tan did not contribute any monies to the purchase. 

The mortgage was taken out in Mr Chiang’s sole name, as his father did not qualify for bank loans, they said.

The loan repayments would be financed by rental income, and contribution towards any shortfall would be made by Mr Chiang as gifts to his father.

They added that in 2018, Dr Chiang engaged lawyers to sue the tenants for rent and for damaging the property. Ms Tan was not involved in the legal process, they said.

Source: Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Permission required for reproduction.



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