Ex-wife told to return $575k in CPF money
The High Court also ruled that the second wife, a Filipina living in Canada, was ineligible to receive the money as she no longer practised the Islamic faith, based on Islamic legal advice.
A Singapore woman who received more than $575,000 from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) belonging to her late former husband has been ordered by the court to return the money after it ruled that his second marriage had cancelled out her status as his nominee.
But in a rare twist involving CPF monies, the High Court also ruled that the second wife - a Filipina living in Canada - was ineligible to receive the money as she no longer practised the Islamic faith, based on Islamic legal advice.
The court instead ordered the first wife to pay the full sum of $575,735 to the administrator of the dead man's estate for distribution based on Islamic law.
In the High Court order filed last month, Justice Andrew Ang also ordered the law firm acting for the first wife - Madam Mamuah Naim - to return the legal fees she paid to it from the CPF money.
Mr Samsudin Mohamed had nominated her as his beneficiary in 1985 but the couple, who had no children, divorced in June 1989.
He married Ms Leonisa Acha Vallecera in Toronto 13 years later and they had a son. Mr Samsudin died in December 2015 and his sister in Singapore - Madam Hamidah Hanif - was tasked to administer his estate.
But two weeks after his death, Madam Mamuah was notified by the CPF of her nomination and, in late January 2016, she applied and withdrew the money from the CPF. By March 2016, there was just $117 left.
In court documents filed in August this year by her instructed lawyer A.P. Thirumurthy, Madam Mamuah said the CPF was not informed of her ex-husband's second marriage in Toronto until after the release of the CPF money to her.
She added that Mr Samsudin did not revoke her status as his CPF nominee and she did not know he had remarried in Canada as she did not keep in contact with him.
Madam Hamidah, represented by lawyer Soraya H. Ibrahim, had argued that her late brother's subsequent marriage in Toronto served to revoke the nomination, based on the Central Provident Fund Act.
She added that the true beneficiaries of the estate under the Islamic Law of Intestacy included the dead man's mother and five siblings.
The court, which ordered the dead man's widow and son in Canada to be added as defendants, held that the dead man's second marriage was valid in Canada, which revoked Madam Mamuah's CPF nominee status.
But it emerged that the second wife, Ms Leonisa, who had married under Islamic law, subsequently renounced her Muslim faith. The court requested an opinion on the impact of this from the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's legal (fatwa) committee, which held that her renunciation meant her marriage to Mr Samsudin was dissolved after the renunciation occurred.
The committee explained this meant Ms Leonisa could not inherit the dead man's estate, due to the difference in faith between her and her husband. It also meant her son was born out of wedlock under Islamic law with no inheritance rights.
Justice Ang ruled that Madam Mamuah's nomination was void and ordered her to return the full CPF sum to the estate administrator.
It is understood over $70,000 has been recovered, including $30,000 from the CPF money that she paid to law firm B B Marican Maideen & Co. She was also ordered to pay $6,000 in legal costs to the estate administrator, Madam Hamidah.
Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.