S'porean offers $2m home as security for return of passport

S'porean offers $2m home as security for return of passport

A Singaporean's bid to offer a £1 million (S$2 million) house as security for the return of his passport failed before a London judge who ruled that a child's future was at stake.

The former bank executive has been stuck in London since 2013 after his passport was retained by the court in the wake of a custody battle with his estranged Mongolian wife over their two-year-old son.

The man is the subject of a court order to return the child to London from Singapore, where the boy is currently living with his paternal grandparents.

The order has been made for the court to deal with the issue of care and control.

"No price can be put upon a child, not even £1 million," said Justice James Holman in decision grounds made public last month.

"So although the suggested charge might offer some security, it is not, frankly, a complete answer to the safeguards that are required here."

The couple have not been named here to protect the child's identity.

The London court explained that the Singaporean man was unable to guarantee he would return to London with their son as ordered by the court if he is allowed to leave Britain.

A British court had ruled last year that the boy's habitual residence is England and had ordered the father to return him to London on the mother's application.

Last September, the man's London lawyer urged the court to return his passport to enable him to return to Singapore for at least a fortnight to see and support his parents.

He undertook to guarantee his return by offering a charge on a £1 million property linked to him.

But Justice Holman, while expressing sympathy for his circumstances, was not convinced. He pointed out that such a security would require detailed examination of the asset ownership and a "very carefully drafted document".

"What the mother seeks is the return of her child," added Justice Holman, expressing "considerable understanding" for the father who has been unable to leave the country for so long.

He said the difficulty was that the courts had yet to make a decision on the "true facts surrounding the non-return of this child to England".

"The father says that he is a man who can be trusted, but the case of the mother is that she first travelled with the child to Singapore (in 2013) on the basis of clear agreements and understandings that the child would in due course be returned here.

"He has not been returned here. It is therefore the case of the mother that the father is not a man who can be trusted."

Justice Holman acknowledged that passport retention by the court was a "powerful order" and "restrictive of ordinary human rights and liberty". "Passports should never, ever be retained for a moment longer than is strictly necessary and proportionate to the circumstances of the case concerned."

Both husband and wife have served jail terms - he in London for contempt of court and she in Singapore for entering illegally by boat in a bid to wrest control of her son from the grandparents last year.

It is understood the mother was repatriated to Mongolia after her jail term and subsequently returned to London to pursue the case against the husband, who had obtained an interim divorce judgment in a Singapore court last year.

The court tug-of-war over the child is continuing both here and in London.

vijayan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 18, 2015.
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