PETALING JAYA - An engineer's plan to secretly divorce his wife came undone when a British court refused to recognise his dishonestly obtained Malaysian court order.
Engineer San Chee Lee, 43, got a divorce from his estranged wife Shelly Shu-Ling Liaw, 36, through the Shah Alam Family Court.
However, according to Shu-Ling, she was not informed or given the chance to respond to the divorce application.
The London-based accountant only found out about the divorce order when San e-mailed her on Aug 19 last year despite getting the order on April 1.
The twist: Shu-Ling was also in the process of divorcing her spouse through the Clerkenwell and Shoreditch County Court.
Due to the conflict, the county court stayed the proceedings and transferred them to the Central Family Court.
High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mostyn ruled that the divorce order by the Malaysian court be refused recognition in England and Wales.
"The husband had set in train steps to obtain a high-speed and completely secret divorce in Malaysia," said the judge, referring to the fact that San's actions were in response to Shu-Ling's e-mail on Nov 15, 2013 about her intent to seek divorce.
He said San had misled the Malaysian court by leaving out the fact that his wife was in the process of divorcing him.
"Had the truth been stated, it is reasonable to suppose that the court in Malaysia would have adopted a very different course," he said in his judgment dated June 3.
"To decline to refuse recognition in this case would be grossly unjust and would in effect reward dishonesty and sharp practice. It would send out a signal that conduct such as I have described is tolerable," Justice Mostyn said.
The judge also directed that a copy of the judgment be given to Justice Vernon Ong Lam Kiat, who granted the divorce in Malaysia.
Justice Ong was elevated to the Court of Appeal in September 2014.
San and Shu-Ling married on July 18, 2001 in Singapore and separated on Nov 3, 2010. They have a nine-year-old daughter.
San claimed that he was forced to return to Malaysia in October 2011 due to the British recession, but Shu-Ling refused to follow him.