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Mustafa Centre boss not taking the stand

Mustafa Centre boss not taking the stand

Source: Straits Times
Article Date: 11 Nov 2020
Author: Selina Lum

The Defence contends there is no case to answer on the basis that the plaintiffs have not provided sufficient evidence.

The joint hearing of two lawsuits against Mustafa Centre boss Mustaq Ahmad and his family has come to an end, after lawyers for the defendants asserted there was no need for him and others to give evidence.

In a rare move, lawyers for Mr Mustaq and the other defendants told the High Court they would be making a submission of "no case to answer".

This means the defendants are contending the plaintiffs have not provided sufficient evidence to make out the key elements of their claims, and the defendants, therefore, do not need to call evidence of their own.

The trial, which began on Oct 13 and was heard over 20 days before coming to an end on Monday, saw 21 witnesses testifying for the two sets of plaintiffs. Seven of the witnesses testified in both suits.

Both suits centre on Mohamed Mustafa and Samsuddin Co (MMSC), the company behind the popular department store in Syed Alwi Road.

Besides Mr Mustaq, the other defendants are his wife Ishret Jahan, their children Shama and Osama, and Madam Ishret's brother Iqbal.

All five are directors of the company.

One suit was brought by Mr Mustaq's stepfamily, who are represented by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and Mr Jaikanth Shankar.

The other was brought by two sons of Mr Mustaq's late business partner Samsuddin Mokhtar Ahmad, who are also his distant cousins. They are represented by Mr Sarbjit Singh Chopra and Mr Sean La'Brooy.

The plaintiffs accused the defendants of diluting the interests of Mr Mustaq's father Mohamed Mustafa and Mr Samsuddin, paying themselves excessive director fees and misappropriating money.

The plaintiffs claimed the company's affairs had been conducted in a way that is oppressive to their interests as minority shareholders.

Mr Mustaq, represented by Senior Counsel Alvin Yeo and Ms Koh Swee Yen, contended he was the patriarch who had provided for his extended family over the years.

He alleged the lawsuits were driven by greed for more assets and money, and were filed after his father and Mr Samsuddin, who died in 2001 and 2011 respectively, could no longer testify.

MMSC was incorporated in 1989 by Mr Mustaq and Mr Samsuddin. Mr Mustaq's father Mustafa and Mr Mustaq's wife were later added as shareholders.

Between 1989 and 2001, Mr Mustaq's stake went from 51 per cent to 61.25 per cent, while Mr Samsuddin's share went from 30 per cent to 15.12 per cent.

Mr Mustafa's initial stake was 19 per cent but, after his death, the proportion held by his estate became 14.89 per cent.

Mr Mustaq's stepbrother Ayaz Ahmed said it was after he engaged a consultant to look into the company's affairs in 2016, that he found out about "wrongful" allotments which increased Mr Mustaq's shareholdings.

Mr Ayaz, his brothers Ishtiaq and Maaz, and their mother Asia, who goes by one name, were among the witnesses who gave evidence. Others included forensic accounting expert Owen Hawkes and valuation expert Mark Collard.

Mr Samsuddin's sons Fayyaz and Ansar are claiming a one-third share of the Mustafa business empire and assets owned by Mr Mustaq in various countries.

Witnesses included forensic accounting expert Chee Yoh Chuang.

The case has been adjourned for written submissions to be filed by Jan 11, and Judicial Commissioner Mavis Chionh is expected to give her verdict on March 8.

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

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