Siblings appeal over key words in tycoon's will

Siblings appeal over key words in tycoon's will
Tan Cheng Gay (above) and his brothers Yok Koon and Chin Hoon, as well as sister Choo Pin, want Hong Kong's apex court to clarify two Chinese words in the will.

The four children of a late Singapore tycoon unhappy with a Hong Kong court's interpretation of a key Chinese phrase in his will are seeking a further final appeal.

Singapore-based Tan Cheng Gay and his brothers Yok Koon and Chin Hoon, as well as sister Choo Pin, want Hong Kong's apex court to clarify two Chinese words in the will, which they say meant "under/or in the name" of somebody. Siblings appeal over key words in tycoon's will

They want the court to explain how the particular clause in the will containing the words is to be construed.

They argued that the words covered only assets held in the name of Mr Tan Kim Toen or by him personally, excluding other things held in trust for him. But his eldest daughter, Dr Tan Choo Suan, the "executrix" of the will and the defendant in the case, disputes their claim.

The issue has drawn keen interest as the late Mr Tan, founder of the Afro-Asia Shipping Company (AAS), had sought in the joint 2008 will with his wife to donate most of his assets to charities in Fujian, Hong Kong and Singapore upon his wife's death.

The court's interpretation of the clause is expected to affect the extent of the assets available that would go to the charities.

Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice, who was added as second defendant in the case, is monitoring the proceedings in the interests of the charities.

A Hong Kong Court of Appeal ruled last month that the words in the relevant clause referred to all assets belonging to Mr Tan, including those held in trust for him in somebody else's name. The court affirmed the 2013 finding of the Hong Kong High Court and ordered the siblings to pay the costs of the lawsuit.

But the siblings are seeking permission to appeal further to the Hong Kong's Final Court of Appeal, Mr Tan Cheng Gay told The Straits Times.

Meanwhile, the extent of the estate that belonged to the late patriarch is set to be decided by the Singapore High Court, where proceedings are ongoing. At issue is whether certain assets of the Tan family form part of the estate of Mr Tan Kim Toen. The four siblings are pitted against their sister Choo Suan and mother Ng Giok Oh, 93, in a case to be brought up in the High Court next week.

The late Mr Tan had started AAS in Singapore in 1961 to trade in tea, rice and cement, among other things. The Hong Kong court noted the will included in its assets some 2.5 million shares in AAS worth $56.5 million, as well as artworks and antiques. But these are under scrutiny in the Singapore hearing in relation to ownership.

vijayan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 28, 2014.
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