Wong Ser Wan v Ng Bok Eng Holdings Pte Ltd and Another (No 2)

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeJudith Prakash J
Judgment Date06 September 2004
Neutral Citation[2004] SGHC 197
Citation[2004] SGHC 197
Defendant CounselLeslie Chew SC, Chan Kia Pheng, Shaun Koh (Khattar Wong and Partners)
Published date10 September 2004
Date06 September 2004
Plaintiff CounselK Shanmugam SC, Ang Cheng Hock, Leona Yuen (Allen and Gledhill)
Docket NumberSuit No 310 of 2003 (Summons in
Subject MatterSection 73B Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (Cap 61, 1994 Rev Ed),Land,Conveyance,Whether individual creditor entitled to commence action to annul sale and transfer of assets notwithstanding bankruptcy of debtor who executed alleged fraudulent conveyance,Factors to consider

6 September 2004

Judgment reserved.

Judith Prakash J:

1 This suit was started on 1 April 2003 by the plaintiff, Mdm Wong Ser Wan, for the purpose of annulling the sale and transfer to the defendants of assets formerly owned by her ex-husband, Mr Ng Cheong Ling. It was brought under the provisions of s 73B of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (Cap 61, 1994 Rev Ed) (“the Act”). The full facts of the case are set out in the judgment that I delivered in [2004] SGHC 181 on 19 August 2004. This judgment deals with an application made by the defendants that came up for hearing on the first day of the trial. After hearing the arguments, I indicated that I would give my decision after the trial had ended.

2 By a Summons for Further Directions filed on 16 April 2004, the defendants applied for the following orders to be made:

(a) pursuant to O 14 r 12 of the Rules of Court (Cap 322, R 5, 2004 Rev Ed), a determination of the issue that, as a matter of law, Mdm Wong is not the correct plaintiff in respect of her claim against the first and second defendants made pursuant to s 73B of the Act and that the correct party to make such a claim as plaintiff is the Official Assignee;

(b) this action, so far as it is made pursuant to s 73B of the Act, or alternatively, the entire action if this court deems fit, be stayed for 14 days pending the Official Assignee being named as the plaintiff in place of Mdm Wong in respect of the claim; and

(c) in default of the above, Mdm Wong’s claim made pursuant to s 73B of the Act be struck out or dismissed without more, and the costs of this claim thrown away be paid by Mdm Wong to the first and second defendants.

3 It is significant that the application was made more than a year after the action had started and after the parties had prepared and exchanged their Affidavits of Evidence-in-Chief, and were almost ready for the trial which had been fixed to take place between 12 May and 18 May 2004. The application first came up for hearing on 28 April 2004 but in view of the imminent start of the trial, the hearing was adjourned to be determined by the trial judge.

Relevant facts

4 The facts relevant to this application are set out in the affidavits filed by the defendants’ solicitor Mr Chan Kia Pheng and by Mdm Wong herself. No challenge has been mounted as to the accuracy of the facts asserted by Mdm Wong.

5 The assets which were the subject matter of the action comprised the land and premises known as 764 Mountbatten Road, Singapore (“the Mountbatten property”) and 60,000 ordinary shares in the capital of Ng Bok Eng Holdings Pte Ltd, the first defendant (“the shares”). Mr Ng was previously the legal owner of both assets. On 27 June 1998, he transferred the Mountbatten property to the first defendant. On 26 September 1998, he transferred the shares to the second defendant, Bian Bee Company Pte Ltd.

6 Mr Ng was made a bankrupt on 11 October 2002. By an Order of Court dated 14 October 2002, one Mr Loke Poh Keun was appointed the trustee in bankruptcy of Mr Ng’s estate. Having asked the creditors to file their proofs of debt, Mr Loke proceeded to convene a creditors’ meeting. The creditors included Aromate Pte Ltd, the petitioning creditor, represented by Mdm Wong. Mdm Wong was also a creditor in her own right. She had filed a proof of debt of $1,402,072.71. Other creditors who had filed proofs of debt and were entitled to attend the meeting included Mr Ng Bok Beng, the bankrupt’s father and a director of the first defendant; the bankrupt’s brother, Mr Ng Cheong Bian, who was a director of the second defendant; the first defendant itself; Ms Ng Chai Loan, the bankrupt’s sister; and three companies from China and Hong Kong that were started and run by the bankrupt.

7 The first creditors’ meeting was held on 19 December 2002. At the meeting, a creditors’ committee of three members was elected. Those elected were Mr Ng Bok Beng, the first defendant and Goodray Limited, a Chinese company in which the bankrupt was, practically, the only shareholder. The first creditors’ committee meeting was held on 23 January 2003. Two days later, there was a pre-trial conference in respect of the on-going dispute between Mdm Wong and the bankrupt over the division of their matrimonial assets. Mr Loke appeared and informed the court that the creditors’ committee was in favour of commencing legal proceedings to recover assets disposed of by the bankrupt in the five years preceding the bankruptcy order and that these assets included the Mountbatten property and the shares. He also stated that the creditors’ committee needed time to seek legal advice for starting such proceedings. As a result, the pre-trial conference was adjourned to 22 February 2003 to allow Mr Loke time to commence legal action.

8 Having held a second creditors’ committee meeting on 4 February 2003, Mr Loke was able to obtain legal advice on the issue from Messrs Rajah & Tann. At the next pre-trial conference, Mr Loke informed the court that he needed time to consider this advice before deciding whether to proceed. He did not, however, disclose what the advice had been. Having heard this, the district judge observed that if the intended proceedings to set aside the transactions relating to the transfer of the assets had not been commenced by the next pre-trial conference, she intended to proceed with the hearing of the ancillary matters. The next pre‑trial conference was then fixed for 5 April 2003.

9 On 3 March 2003, Mr Loke issued a notice for a second creditors’ meeting to...

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2 cases
  • Ng Bok Eng Holdings Pte Ltd and Another v Wong Ser Wan
    • Singapore
    • Court of Three Judges (Singapore)
    • 28 April 2005
    ...that there would be less for Mdm Wong to look to for division. As Prakash J noted in her second judgment in the present case reported at [2004] 4 SLR 464, s 73B does not differentiate between the situation of a bankrupt debtor and the situation of a non-bankrupt debtor. She opined that the ......
  • Allenger, Shiona (trustee-in-bankruptcy of the estate of Pelletier, Richard Paul Joseph) v Pelletier, Olga and another
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 22 December 2020
    ...This specific issue of locus standi under s 73B of the CLPA was considered in Wong Ser Wan v Ng Bok Eng Holdings Pte Ltd and another [2004] 4 SLR(R) 464 (“Wong Ser Wan”). The defendant in that case submitted that once a debtor had been made bankrupt, any challenge mounted against any dispos......

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