Bungalow victory for British housewife

Bungalow victory for British housewife
British housewife Jane Rebecca Ong, who separated from her husband in 1987, has been fighting for a share in the estate of her father-in-law, Indonesian banking tycoon Ong Seng Keng, for years.

An "extraordinary" legal dispute between a British housewife and the widow of a banking tycoon, that has been going on for 24 years in courts both in Singapore and London, has now taken a further twist.

Ms Jane Rebecca Ong, 54, has been fighting for a share in the estate of her father-in-law Ong Seng Keng - a prominent Indonesian businessman who died in a 1974 accident. She separated from his son Ong Siaw Tjoan in 1987, but lived with their three children in a North London bungalow bought by her mother-in-law, Madam Lim Lie Hoa.

In 1991, she began a series of legal battles with her mother-in-law for a share of Mr Ong senior's estate.

In 2005, Madam Lim took legal action to force the family out of their home before selling it for £3.2 million a year later.

Madam Lim died at age 74 in 2009, leaving behind a series of court orders against Ms Ong in relation to the London house.

But these orders have been set aside or stayed after a London court last month found that Madam Lim had lied to the Singapore courts in 2004 when she denied creating a trust for the house.

Ms Ong's Singapore lawyer Andrew Ho searched through 72,000 pages of documents to find that Madam Lim had signed a three-page trust deed in 1986.

Madam Lim had created it for Ms Ong's 57-year-old estranged husband and their three children, as well as another son of hers.

Ms Ong had applied to the London court to declare there was a trust. Although she is not one of the beneficiaries, she stands to profit from Mr Ong's share in the house under divorce proceedings. Her children are also entitled to a total 60 per cent share of the sale proceeds.

Madam Lim gave sworn evidence in Singapore proceedings that she did not sign the trust deed. But Justice Paul Morgan rejected defence suggestions that she made a mistake by placing the bungalow in a family trust.

He also found she understood the basics of what was involved in a trust, having run a property investment office in Singapore.

" The courts dealing with the Singapore litigation accepted her evidence that she had not signed the trust deed," Justice Morgan said in a 79-page judgment.

"However, the evidence before me shows she had signed the trust deed. I find that her evidence in Singapore in this respect was a deliberate lie."

The declaration also means Ms Ong no longer owes Madam Lim 19 years of rent - calculated in 2007 to be £2.3 million, including interest. The judge set aside earlier related London court orders made against Ms Ong as they were based on Madam Lim "knowingly repeating her untruthful evidence".

Ms Ong was also successful in a Singapore court in 1996, ordering an inquiry to determine the size of the family's estate to assess her share. She was awarded $3.2 million as a result of a 2002 inquiry by a High Court Assistant Registrar.

But her litigation continued in Singapore and London on related matters. Justice Morgan said the "extraordinary litigation history in this case" made it possible to uncover documents dating back to 1985.

Mr Ho, of Engelin Teh & Partners, found the three pages of the trust in separate files in 2010 while he was working on a related case.

Asked how he managed to do so, he said: "It's just part of the job."

This article was first published on July 9, 2015.
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