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High Court dismisses Hour Glass co-founder's appeal against bankruptcy

High Court dismisses Hour Glass co-founder's appeal against bankruptcy

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 25 Jun 2019
Author: Tay Peck Gek

In the High Court on Monday, she failed to persuade Dedar Singh Gill JC to overturn AR Zeslene Mao's decision to grant SME Care's petition to make her a bankrupt over the S$4.15 million overdue debt.

Jannie Chan Siew Lee's appeal against her bankruptcy order was dismissed by the High Court on Monday.

The co-founder of mainboard-listed luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass told The Business Times that she will not pursue her case in the Court of Appeal. Neither will she apply to stay the execution of the bankruptcy order made against her late last month.

She owes over S$4.15 million to SME Care, as a result of having been the guarantor on a (defaulted) loan SME Care made to her company, JASC.

She now hopes to enlist the help of the Official Assignee (OA) to recover what is owed to her from her jewellery business, a sum which she said amounts to over a million dollars.

An OA is an officer appointed by the court to administer a bankrupt's affairs while he or she remains undischarged.

"I have nothing on my name now," the prominent businesswoman told BT. She added that she is now staying at a property owned by the family's holding company, TYC Investment.

The 74-year-old has sold all her five properties in the last few years - at considerable losses - after she decided to clear her mortgages and exit the property market. She said property yields are bad, and that the market isn't likely to turn around soon, even as leasehold properties depreciate in the meantime.

Of her interest in TYC, which owns 48.27 per cent of The Hour Glass, Ms Chan said it cannot be sold to settle her debt because she is holding the stakes in trust for her three children.

She holds 44 per cent of TYC's voting rights while her former husband and co-founder of The Hour Glass Henry Tay has 46 per cent; the remaining 10 per cent are held by their children.

Ms Chan is no longer a director at The Hour Glass, but she told BT that she remains an adviser to the company she set up with Dr Tay, who is also the company's executive chairman.

In the High Court on Monday, she failed to persuade Judicial Commissioner Dedar Singh Gill to overturn assistant registrar Zeslene Mao's decision to grant SME Care's petition to make her a bankrupt over the S$4.15 million overdue debt.

The judge in dismissing the appeal, said: "The statutory demand was validly issued. The sums under the statutory demand have not been paid, nor any acceptable proposal made as at the date of the making of the bankruptcy order on May 27, 2019. The appeal, therefore, permits of only one answer, and that is that assistant registrar Zeslene Mao was entirely correct in making the bankruptcy order against the defendant. In the circumstances, I dismiss the appeal."

SME Care, represented by Muralli Rajaram and Gabriel Peters of K&L Gates Straits Law in the bankruptcy application, had lent S$500,000 to Ms Chan's company JASC in July 2012. The loan was secured by a mortgage of two shops owned by JASC and a personal guarantee from Ms Chan.

But JASC defaulted on the debt repayment. The mortgaged properties were sold, but the proceeds were not sufficient to discharge the debt.

Ms Chan, being the guarantor, was thus asked to make good the amount owed, which had snowballed to S$3.69 million by September 2017.

The debt in question, which now stands at more than S$4.15 million, remains unpaid despite demands from SME Care, prompting the company to apply for Ms Chan's bankruptcy.

She will be back in court on July 2 to make another appeal - this time against a two-week jail term for contempt of court: She had flouted an order taken out to restrain her from defaming and harassing her former husband.

The couple divorced in 2010 after a 41-year-long marriage.

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




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