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Ministry of Food winding up, failed to pay debt of $200,000

Ministry of Food winding up, failed to pay debt of $200,000

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 22 Apr 2021
Author: Joyce Lim

The number of restaurants had whittled down to 26 around March 2020.

Home-grown restaurant chain Ministry of Food is winding up after failing to pay a debt of $200,000.

The sum was a friendly, interest-free loan from Mr Chua Ngak Hwee to the company in 2019.

Mr Chua, co-founder of medical device company Healthstats, sued Ministry of Food last month when it failed to repay the debt.

On April 9, the High Court granted an application from Mr Chua to wind up Ministry of Food, which owned a slate of restaurant chains, including MOF, Hanssik, DaeSsikSin and Ju Hao.

A search by The Straits Times (ST) showed that an application was filed with the High Court in January to enforce an arbitration award of $4.8 million by South Korean businessman Lee Je Young and three others.

Mr Tam Chee Chong, director of Kairos Corporate Advisory, who has been appointed as the liquidator, told ST yesterday that he is aware of the $4.8 million claim against the company.

Mr Tam said all the restaurants under the Ministry of Food have been shut.

But ST found that DaeSsikSin Korean BBQ Buffet at Orchard Gateway was still operating yesterday, albeit under Master Kitchen Concepts - a different business entity.

Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (Acra) records showed Master Kitchen Concepts was incorporated in December last year.

It is owned by Dr Ting Choon Meng, a Ministry of Food director from 2016 to 2018. Dr Ting also co-founded Healthstats with Mr Chua, who sued the company.

Ministry of Food founder Lena Sim could not be reached for comment.

At its height, Ministry of Food had about 80 restaurants across the island, with the first MOF outlet in Marina Square opening in 2006.

Around March last year, the number of restaurants had whittled down to 26. In an interview with ST then, Ms Sim blamed the coronavirus pandemic and a Mareva injunction freezing her assets which led to a lack of funds to pay rent and staff wages.

In 2017, Ministry of Food was sued for an outstanding debt of $4.8 million for its purchase of a chain of Korean restaurants.

Ms Sim had apparently agreed to buy the chain that year for $5.5 million. She paid $700,000.

She said at the time that she was planning to resell the chain of restaurants to a Thai conglomerate.

But the deal fell through and she became entangled in the legal battle.

When Ms Sim replaced herself with her elderly mother as the sole director of her 20 companies and put up her Wilkinson Road bungalow for sale, the plaintiff's lawyer Chia Boon Teck of Chia Wong Chambers obtained a Mareva injunction against her, freezing her assets of up to a value of $4.8 million.

Acra records showed that there were four charges registered by UOB, Standard Chartered and Maybank on the firm from 2014 to 2018.

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

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