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Suit against dead woman's estate dismissed by court

Suit against dead woman's estate dismissed by court

Source: Straits Times
Date Published: 11 Feb 2019
Author: K.C. Vijayan

A marine consultancy has failed in its bid to sue the estate of its late company secretary after claiming she cheated it out of $1.6 million.

A marine consultancy has failed in its bid to sue the estate of its late company secretary after claiming she cheated it out of $1.6 million.

Ms Satwant Kaur died of cancer aged 49, in May 2016, four months after she was granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal (DNATA) by a district judge in an alleged fraud trial.

The month after her death, Red Star Marine Consultants took civil action in a bid to sue representatives of her estate in the High Court, which dismissed the suit.

Justice Woo Bih Li found the suit could not stand as the company's managing director Dhanvinder Singh (DS) "was not a truthful witness on the main issue".

"There are other aspects of the evidence which suggest that DS was not a truthful witness but it is at present unnecessary to elaborate on them," said the judge in ex tempore decision grounds last week.

Ms Kaur had served as personal secretary to Mr Singh, who alleged that between 2005 and 2012 she had misled him into signing cheques meant for third parties which she then encashed or deposited in her personal account.

During a police probe in September 2012, Ms Kaur admitted in statements that she had received various sums from Red Star with Mr Singh's consent.

But she claimed, among other things, that Mr Singh had agreed to this so that he could evade income tax, alleging that whenever he needed money he would ask her to withdraw it from her personal account for his own use.

Ms Kaur said Mr Singh had told her to buy expensive items for him and that he was aware of properties she owned.

She was charged with eight counts of criminal breach of trust but was granted the DNATA in January 2016 on the application of the Deputy Public Prosecutor following representations by her then lawyer R.S. Bajwa.

In the civil lawsuit that followed in June 2016, Red Star sued the personal representatives of Ms Kaur's estate and her sister Manjit Kaur, claiming that the latter had used money from her late sister to buy two properties.

Red Star, represented by lawyer Mahmood Gaznavi, argued that the late Ms Kaur had fraudulently obtained the $1.6 million - a claim denied by the estate representatives, who were defended by lawyer Satwant Singh .

Ms Manjit Kaur, defended by lawyers Alfred Lim and Jaime Lye, claimed she was unaware that her late sister's money had come from Red Star. Mr Singh claimed he believed the cheques he signed - listed under an expense item called "survey charges" - were for genuine purposes.

Mr Singh first told the High Court trial that he checked the survey charges before he signed the company's annual financial statements, but later claimed that he had only looked at the profit figures.

Justice Woo said: "He would have realised the profit figures could not have been so low and something was amiss, if indeed it were true that the deceased had taken the money without his consent.

"It is clear to me that he knew and had consented to the money being taken by the deceased."

Justice Woo dismissed Red Star's claim against the defendants after a 10-day hearing. The plaintiff was also ordered to pay $120,000 in costs and others to the defendants.

Lawyer Satwant Singh, on the family's behalf, said yesterday: "This has been a long, stressful process for the family since the investigation first started in 2012. The family felt very relieved and vindicated by the judgment."


SUIT DISMISSED

He would have realised the profit figures could not have been so low and something was amiss, if indeed it were true that the deceased had taken the money without his consent. It is clear to me that he knew and had consented to the money being taken by the deceased.

JUSTICE WOO BIH LI, who found Red Star Marine Consultants' managing director Dhanvinder Singh "not a truthful witness on the main issue".

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

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