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Family of ex-SA Tours boss fails to get back shares he transferred to mistress

Family of ex-SA Tours boss fails to get back shares he transferred to mistress

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 19 Sep 2019
Author: Selina Lum

In a written judgment yesterday, the High Court found that Mr Ng Kong Yeam, 80, intended to benefit Madam Kay Swee Pin, 66, when he transferred 799,999 shares in Natwest Holdings to her in 2010.

The wife and children of SA Tours' former boss, who now has dementia, have lost their lawsuit to get back his shares in the travel agency's parent company - valued at about $20 million - from his longtime mistress.

In a written judgment yesterday, the High Court found that Mr Ng Kong Yeam, 80, intended to benefit Madam Kay Swee Pin, 66, when he transferred 799,999 shares in Natwest Holdings to her in 2010.

Natwest was set up by Mr Ng, a Malaysian, to hold his Singapore assets. It owns SA Tours and a $4 million Cairnhill apartment that was home to Mr Ng and Madam Kay for two decades.

After the share transfer, Madam Kay became its sole owner.

Mr Ng moved back with his Malaysian family in July 2013 on Madam Kay's suggestion. He was declared mentally incapacitated in December that year.

In 2016, his legal wife Ling Towi Sing, now 80, and children - Gabriel, 43, Irene, 55, and Iris, 47 - sued Madam Kay on his behalf, seeking to reverse the transfer.

Madam Kay's daughter with Mr Ng, 32-year-old Eva Mae, was also named as a defendant.

The Ngs initially accused Madam Kay of fraud, alleging that she had filled in the share transfer form and lodged it without Mr Ng's knowledge and consent. But this claim was eventually abandoned.

At the close of the trial, their main argument was that the shares had been transferred to Madam Kay for her to hold in trust for Mr Ng.

Madam Kay, who was represented by Mr Suresh Damodara, argued that Mr Ng had given the shares to her to provide for her and their daughter.

She pointed out that she and Mr Ng managed SA Tours together and lived as a family for two decades.

She submitted documents, including an e-mail from Mr Ng stating that he would leave SA Tours to her, after she alleged that he had an affair and a sexual addiction.

The plaintiffs, represented by Senior Counsel Roderick Martin, asserted that Mr Ng did not intend to benefit Madam Kay because the relationship between the two had broken down.

They submitted a letter, in which Madam Kay purportedly wrote that it was time to move on. Mr Ng replied on the same sheet of paper, agreeing to her suggestion.

They also relied on a will that Mr Ng made in February 2012, bequeathing his Natwest shares to Gabriel and Eva Mae. They argued that this shows Mr Ng still saw himself as the owner of the shares.

A video recording of the will-making exercise was played in court.

In his judgment, Judicial Commissioner Vincent Hoong said Madam Kay's version of events was supported by documented evidence, whereas allegations of a breakdown in their relationship were not.

He also found the letter and the 2012 will to be "highly suspicious".

He noted: "One would not expect physical letters to be exchanged on a single sheet of paper, since the recipient of a letter would naturally reply to the sender on a fresh sheet."

As for the video, the judge said it was clear Mr Ng was "merely reading aloud the contents of the will verbatim" and the "mechanistic nature" of the exercise cast serious doubts on whether the will was a true reflection of Mr Ng's wishes.

Madam Kay told The Straits Times she was extremely relieved by the verdict. "My whole life was at stake - my home and my work."

Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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