Yeoh Poh San and Another v Won Siok Wan

CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
JudgeBelinda Ang Saw Ean JC
Judgment Date28 August 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGHC 196
Citation[2002] SGHC 196
Published date19 March 2013
Plaintiff CounselAndre Arul (Arul Chew & Partners)
Defendant CounselL Kuppanchetti (Alban Tay Mahtani & De Silva)



1. This was an appeal against the decision of the Asst. Registrar May Loh, refusing a stay of the Respondents’ action against the Appellant. I heard the appeal on 21 May 2002 and affirmed the Asst. Registrar’s decision. The Appellant, being dissatisfied with my decision, filed Notice of Appeal on 12 June 2002.

2. The Appellant, Won Siok Wan ("Won") and the 2nd Respondent, Choo Lee Chin ("Choo") are named account holders of three joint accounts with United Overseas Bank, Main Branch, 80 UOB Plaza, Singapore. Either account holder could operate the accounts in that the bank could act on the sole signature of either account holder.

3. It was common ground that after Won left the home where she and Yeoh lived, Won travelled to Singapore on 11 June 2001 and during that visit withdrew various sums of money from the three joint accounts. All in all she withdrew a total of S$2.5m or thereabouts. A breakdown of withdrawals from the three joint accounts is as follows:

Current account no. 101-311-077-3 S $1,036,000.00

Fixed Deposit account no. 101-462-177-1 S $ 810,596.41

Foreign Currency Account no. 101-074-120-9 US$ 372,122.49

(denominated in US Dollars)

4. Won then deposited the withdrawals into separate bank accounts in her sole name with United Overseas Bank in Singapore.

5. Yeoh Poh San ("Yeoh"), the 1st Respondent and Choo objected to the withdrawals when they learned about what Won had done. Yeoh alleged that Won had misappropriated trust money. Yeoh’s evidence, which is corroborated by Choo, is that the monies in the joint accounts were his savings for his old age. He was the sole contributor of the funds deposited in the three joint accounts. Won and Choo, both held the monies on trust for him. Won and Choo were to share equally the balance of the monies in the joint accounts upon Yeoh’s death.

6. Prior to the withdrawals on 11 June 2002, Won and Choo were Yeoh’s companions. Won, however, claimed that she was more than a companion. She was all along Yeoh’s common law wife, having lived together as man and wife for 20 years from July 1981 to June 2001. I should mention that Yeoh married Choo on 21 August 2001.

7. On 4 January 2002, the Respondents issued proceedings against Won and on 29 January 2002 successfully obtained a mareva injunction freezing Won’s assets in Singapore. Won failed in her application filed on 18 February 2002 to set aside or vary the injunction.

8. On 18 February 2002, Won applied for a stay of the action on the ground of forum non conveniens. It was argued that the action should be stayed for the following reasons:

(i) the Appellant and Respondents are Malaysians and ordinarily resident in Malaysia;

(ii) the main witnesses are resident in Malaysia;

(iii) 1st Respondent has assets in Malaysia;

(iv) the Appellant has assets in Malaysia;

(v) there are issues of Malaysian law before the Singapore court.

9. The principles governing a stay of proceedings on the ground of forum non conveniens are well established. The House of Lords’ decision in Spiliada Maritime Corporation v Consulex [1987] AC 460 was affirmed and applied in Brinkerhoff Maritime Drilling Corp & Anor v PT Airfast Services Indonesia & Anor [1992] 2 SLR 776; Eng Liat Kiang v Eng Bak Hern [1995] 3 SLR 97 and Oriental Insurance Co Ltd v Bhavani Stores Pte Ltd [1998] 1 SLR 253.

10. The Court of Appeal in PT Hutan Domas Raya v Yue Xiu Enterprises (Holdings) Limited & Anor. [2001] 2 SLR 49 at 54 re-affirmed the Spiliada approach:

"….The correct approach which a...

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