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High roller can now contest casino's $10m suit

High roller can now contest casino's $10m suit

Source: Straits Times
Date Published: 07 Feb 2019
Author: K.C. Vijayan

The High Court has set aside a $10 million default judgment against an Australian-Chinese tycoon for alleged casino debts and allowed his appeal to enter his defence and contest the case in a court trial.

The High Court has set aside a $10 million default judgment against an Australian-Chinese tycoon for alleged casino debts and allowed his appeal to enter his defence and contest the case in a court trial.

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) casino had sued China-born businessman Wang Zhi Cai in the High Court and obtained the default judgment on June 12, 2017, after he failed to appear in court. The casino also obtained a Sydney court order to enforce the Singapore judgment against his assets in Australia.

The Singapore court order provided for the recovery of more than $13 million, the biggest sum sought by MBS from an Australian casino patron. The amount comprises the casino debt of $9,996,250, plus interest of $3,782,690 and costs of $7,398.

But last week, Justice Chan Seng Onn, after hearing the arguments of lawyers from both sides, took the Singapore court order off the table, allowing an appeal by Mr Wang, 63, to file his defence within 21 days to contest the case.

His lawyers Alfred Lim and Jaime Lye from Fullerton Law Chambers had successfully argued that there were various "triable" issues in the case that justified a full court trial to consider and decide the outcome.

Drew & Napier lawyer Kelvin Tan had successfully objected before the High Court registrar last year to Mr Wang's application to set aside the default judgment, a move that led to the present appeal before Justice Chan.

Mr Wang, a high-net-worth patron, had visited the casino in April 2013 and January 2014 and admitted to losses at the casino, in court papers filed. But he claimed he did not deal directly with the casinos he patronised but through a Beijing-based junket operator who would pay for his losses and collect on his winnings.

At issue in the case to be decided would be the role of any junket operator and others in the payment process - triable issues to establish the facts. Mr Wang, in documents filed, said he was introduced to MBS by his junket operator, who had also previously arranged his patronage to casinos in London and Seoul. He said he failed to appear in court to defend himself within the appropriate time limit in 2016 because he was unaware of the court papers filed by MBS.

MBS had obtained the High Court default judgment after having served the papers by registered post and by posting the same on the front door of Mr Wang's Kirribilli Avenue address in Sydney in May 2017. After obtaining the Singapore judgment, MBS sought to seize his assets in Australia, registering the judgment in a Sydney court, but failed in attempts to serve the court notice personally to Mr Wang at the registered office of his company - TMG International Design - or at its place of business.

Last year, an Australian judge allowed MBS' application to send notice of the Singapore judgment to Mr Wang's known home and business addresses in lieu of serving it to him in person. But further moves to serve papers at his Kirribilli address failed, as did attempts to call him on two given phone numbers in Australia and China.

Mr Wang said he came to know of the default judgment only in June last year, about a year after it was issued, and it was through his personal assistant's e-mail account.

He then took steps to set aside the judgment.

He added that he travelled abroad frequently as a businessman, and that since 2007, he had not been to the Kirribilli Avenue address, which was where the notices were posted and the registered mail was sent to.

Mr Wang, who also resides in Beijing, is expected to file his defence in the High Court this month.

MBS declined to comment when contacted, citing the "ongoing legal proceedings".

Its spokesman said: "We would, however, like to stress that to date, we have not had any junket arrangements with junket operators, whether based in Singapore or overseas."

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

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