Canada court gives nod to hear Singapore tycoon's case over $6.1m
Costs should be assessed now and not after Canadian firm's appeal against main suit's decision, it says.
Singaporean billionaire Oei Hong Leong took four years to win a lawsuit in Canada filed against him by Canadian developer Concord Pacific Acquisitions over a C$500 million (S$510 million) waterfront property project in Vancouver.
He then sought to get more than C$6 million (S$6.1 million) in special costs from Concord, which argued that the hearing should wait until after its appeal against the main suit's decision.
But Justice Peter Voith of British Columbia's Supreme Court disagrees with Concord, ruling that it should be heard immediately and not be held back until after the appeal of the main case is heard.
Justice Voith said: "The parties to this litigation are exceptionally sophisticated. They understand the workings of the court far better than most litigants."
He also said, in decision grounds released last month, that there is "no binding authority that guides or determines the outcome of this application".
The outcome also rests on the discretion of the judge, after hearing both parties, he added.
Concord Pacific Acquisitions, which is part of the Concord Pacific Group, one of Canada's biggest developers, had sued Mr Oei in Canada in October 2015.
It claimed it had an agreement with him and his companies to jointly develop the property, and alleged Mr Oei had not negotiated in good faith. At issue was whether there was an enforceable agreement struck on May 14, 2015, to jointly develop the prime property in downtown Vancouver.
There were also questions about whether Concord had been honest in its dealings with Mr Oei.
The agreement called for Concord to pay Mr Oei C$250 million for 50 per cent of the shares in a company that owns the land.
The court wrangle lasted four years until last July, when Justice Voith dismissed Concord's claim and ruled in favour of Mr Oei, who was also awarded costs.
The judge also made various adverse findings on the credibility of Concord's two principal witnesses - one of whom is Mr Terry Hui, whose family had bought Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing's controlling stake in Concord Pacific Group.
Concord is appealing against Justice Voith's findings.
Subsequently, Mr Oei, with the main suit's other defendants - Hong Kong Expo Holdings and Canadian Metropolitan Properties Corporation - sought to seek special costs for the proceedings from Concord Pacific Acquisitions and Mr Hui, a non-party, on the grounds that he was the man who effectively directed Concord.
Justice Voith noted that the special costs included fees, disbursements and taxes.
Concord, in seeking an adjournment, had argued, among other things, that addressing Mr Oei's special costs application, or other related issues that either party would raise, would risk the judge inadvertently saying something in his reasons for judgment that would help either of the parties on Concord's intended appeal on the main case.
Justice Voith ruled out any real risk that his reasons on Mr Oei's special costs application would help any of the parties in the appeal of the main case. "Similarly, while I appreciate that with a pending appeal the court must be perceived to be acting even-handedly, I view this too, in real terms, to be of limited concern."
Mr Oei's lawyers had argued that it would be wrong and prejudicial to Mr Oei and his co-parties to require them to wait until these matters were fully concluded before they could advance their special costs application.
They added that it would be more efficient to have all trial issues, including costs, determined and then to place the various issues before the Court of Appeal to have them all determined concurrently.
"On balance, I agree with (Mr Oei and the co-parties)," said Justice Voith.
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