S'pore Swimming Club wins appeal to get back $1.5m from ex-president

IN A twist to a long-running saga, the Singapore Swimming Club yesterday won an appeal to get back $1.5 million in club funds that former president Freddie Koh used to defend a defamation suit against him.

In a written judgment, the Court of Appeal overturned a High Court decision last year, which rejected the club's bid to recover the money. The appeal court ruled that the club was entitled to a refund on grounds that it had paid Mr Koh's legal bills under a mistaken belief, and that he had breached his fiduciary duties to the club.

Mr Koh, 70, became club president in May 2008 and was ousted in March 2012.

A defamation suit was brought against him in 2009 by four previous committee members. Shortly after, the management committee headed by him passed a resolution that the club would assume liability for legal actions brought against office bearers as a result of them discharging their duties to the club, which then bore his legal costs.

In 2011, Mr Koh lost the defamation suit. After this ruling, the club continued to pay his legal bills.

In March 2012, club members voted to remove Mr Koh, recover the legal costs paid for him and stop further payment.

He sued the club, arguing that it had to indemnify him for the costs.

The club, represented by Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, countersued him for the return of the money it had paid for his legal costs.

The High Court dismissed both claims in 2014. The club appealed.

In its 68-page judgment, the appeal court accepted Mr Tan's arguments that, prior to the defamation judgment, the club had paid Mr Koh's bills under a mistaken belief that he was sued while discharging his duties to the club.

But the court noted that after the defamation ruling, Mr Koh continued to hand over invoices to the club's treasurer and financial controller for payments.


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