Court denies man's claim to son's share of condo

THE High Court has rejected a bid by a 76-year-old newspaper vendor who wanted to retrieve a half-share of a $1.25 million condo unit held by his son, unconvinced by his claim that he had merely given it to his son to hold on trust.

Chin Kim Yon paid $700,000 for the Hillview Avenue condominium in 2000 which he registered in the names of his son Kheng Hai and daughter Yun Qin, then aged 33 and 35 respectively, giving each a half-share.

Their mother was his second wife Lim Ya whom he married according to customary Chinese rites in 1963.

After his daughter died in 2014, her half-share was transferred to Mr Chin as the father. He then sought a court declaration that he was the beneficial owner of the unit and sought the return of his son's half-share to "regularise" ownership.

The Singapore permanent resident, who has five other children from his first marriage in 1958, worked as an illegal street hawker before contracting with Singapore Press Holdings to distribute newspapers in Jurong- a business that expanded into Pasir Panjang.

Mr Chin, represented by lawyer Winston Quek, said he never meant to give the condo to his children who were just holding it on trust for him.

He had "no choice" but to buy the property after the two children failed to get a bank loan for the unit and the daughter asked for his help.

Kheng Hai's lawyer Goh Peck San accepted there was a presumed resulting trust for the father but countered it was presumed the property was advanced or gifted to the children.

Under this "presumption of advancement", the court recognises the special relationship that exists - such as that between father and children or husband and wife - which would be evidence that the claim was an irrevocable gift made at the time.

Senior Judge Tan Lee Meng in judgment grounds released last week, found that Mr Chin had failed to rebut this presumption, pointing to his intention in 2000 when he bought the condo and the state of his relationship with the two children at the time.

The judge noted the relationship between father and son had soured in 2013 before Madam Lim died in March that year.

This was unlike in 2000 when evidence showed that he "cared for them" and bought the unit out of "fatherly concern".

Among other things, the judge noted that Mr Chin funded Kheng Hai's studies in Canada and the United States, arranged for him to return here for medical treatment after a skiing accident in 1997 and sponsored a trip made by the mother and sister to the US for his graduation event.

Based on the state of the relationship between the father and children, Judge Tan found there was "ample room for the operation of the presumption of advancement".

The judge added that Mr Chin's evidence "left much to be desired", pointing to "damning admissions" in certain letters produced.

In summary, Mr Chin changed his position "after having consistently acknowledged Hai's interest in the Hillview property", said Judge Tan.

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