Investor wins in $6.4m dispute with bank

PHOTO: Investor wins in $6.4m dispute with bank

SINGAPORE - An investor ordered to pay some $6.4 million to a bank by the High Court last year after he used investment products to buy shares will get to keep his money after the Court of Appeal reversed the ruling.

In judgment grounds released on Monday, the court held that Credit Industriel et Commercial (CIC) had failed to show that Mr Teo Wai Cheong had actually authorised the purchase of the investment product - known as accumulators - through the French-based bank.

Mr Teo's appeal is a rare win for a customer in a dispute with a bank over financial products. The case is also significant as the apex court - comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Judges of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and V. K. Rajah - clarified the requirements under the relevant provisions of the Evidence Act to allow evidence to be accepted in a civil case in such circumstances.

CIC sued Mr Teo for $6.4 million after he failed to pay for China Energy shares acquired using five accumulators that had incurred losses in 2007. At issue were instructions given by Mr Teo, 49, to then CIC relationship manager Ng Su Ming, 34, to buy the products.

Mr Teo had denied authorising the purchase and the case hinged in part on Ms Ng's evidence.

The case had been sent for a re-trial by an earlier court of appeal in 2011 after Mr Teo argued that not all the relevant evidence had been heard in the initial trial in 2009.

But in last year's High Court re-trial, key witness Ms Ng did not appear and could not be located. This meant that she could not be cross-examined on some of the the new material, comprising more than 2,700 pages, produced at the second trial which were potentially prejudicial to the bank.

Ms Ng was a "crucial witness" and "much of the newly disclosed evidence involved Ng" wrote CJ Menon. The appeal court held that Ms Ng's evidence from the first trial was to be excluded because Mr Teo did not have the opportunity to cross-examine her in the second trial.

CIC, through lawyer S. Manoj, argued that its case could stand even if her evidence was excluded, pointing out he was a savvy investor who was well versed with accumulators.

Mr Teo, defended by Senior Counsel Chelva Rajah and lawyer Sean Lim, argued Ms Ng's conduct in the dealings compromised the bank's claims that he had authorised her to enter into the disputed deals.

The appeal court allowed Mr Teo's counterclaim against the bank for wrongfully liquidating his assets it held and using the money in his account to pay off the accumulator bills.

Contacted on Monday, Mr Teo said: "It has been a long and tortuous five years. I am happy and feel relieved and vindicated by the court's verdict. I am thankful and fortunate to be blessed with family and friends who helped and supported me."

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