SINGAPORE - Two friends of businessman Spencer Tuppani, who was fatally stabbed by his father-in-law in 2017, have sued the three co-administrators of his estate - his widow, her sister and his first wife - over his assets.
Mr Jason Er Kok Yong, 42, and Mr Lawrence Lim Soon Hwa, 46, claim that they each own a one-third share in a $4.6 million Holland Village property that was tenanted to well-known pub Wala Wala Cafe Bar.
The duo contend that they had each contributed $535,200 in cash to the purchase of the property and that Mr Tuppani, who was the sole registered owner, was holding their respective shares on trust for them.
Mr Er has also sued the co-administrators over the ownership of a $566,000 BMW M6 that was bought in Mr Tuppani's sole name in February 2014.
The defendants - Ms Shyller Tan Cheng Cheng, her sister Tan San San and Ms Keh Lay Hong - deny the duo's claims and say the assets were solely owned by Mr Tuppani.
A High Court hearing into the two suits started on Wednesday (May 4).
Mr Tuppani, then 38, was fatally stabbed by his father-in-law, Tan Nam Seng, on July 10, 2017, and collapsed in front of a lunchtime crowd in Boon Tat Street.
Tan, 74, is serving an 8½-year jail term for the killing.
He was upset with how Mr Tuppani had treated Ms Shyller Tan. He also believed that his son-in-law had cheated him of his shipping business.
In the current case, Mr Er and Mr Lim, who are represented by lawyer Oommen Mathew, say they were close friends with Mr Tuppani.
The pair add that in late 2016, Mr Tuppani suggested that they join him in investing in the Lorong Mambong property.
The trio agreed to each put in equal amounts of money to fund the purchase of the property and equally share the profits or losses, they say.
The duo add that it was agreed that the property, bought in Mr Tuppani's sole name, was to be beneficially owned by all three of them in equal shares.
The property was originally selling for $4.8 million but the price was reduced to $4.6 million to offset a loan that Mr Tuppani had given to one of the two sellers.
Mr Tuppani took out a $3.68 million mortgage, which was to be financed from rental income.
In May 2017, Mr Tuppani's lawyers prepared a trust deed to declare that he held a two-thirds share in the property on trust for Mr Er and Mr Lim.
The document was signed only by Mr Lim before Mr Tuppani was killed.
The duo contend that the documentary evidence shows that Mr Tuppani fully intended to recognise their beneficiary interests in the property.
They say it was common knowledge among those who knew Mr Tuppani that he frequently entered into large cash transactions.
The defendants' lawyer, Mr Nichol Yeo, said in his opening statement that the pair's evidence consists only of bare assertions of an oral agreement.
The context in which the trust deed was prepared is not disclosed in any documentary evidence, he noted.
As for the BMW, Mr Er claims that there was an oral agreement for Mr Tuppani to hold the car on trust for him.
Mr Er says he had reimbursed Mr Tuppani more than $273,000 in cash for the car.
He adds that he made monthly instalment payments for the car for several months in 2014 and 2015 and from February 2017 to March 2019. He also paid the insurance and road tax bills.
The defendants, who are represented by Mr Andy Chiok, say the instalment payments were made in exchange for the use of the car.
The defendants have counter-claimed against Mr Er for $1.1 million that Mr Tuppani paid him from August 2014 to May 2017.
This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.