A wealthy Singapore doctor, who said a judge in his Canadian divorce case had “spread her legs” for his wife’s lawyer, has been hit with a multimillion-dollar divorce bill including C$100,000 (S$101,500) in monthly support, in a ruling that described his conduct in the case as “reprehensible”.
Neurologist Gobinathan Devathasan, 69, had hidden assets, sent correspondence to his daughter’s Canadian university to embarrass her, refused to co-operate with court-appointed experts, and breached asset freezes, in conduct that was “richly deserving of rebuke”, the April 29 ruling in British Columbia’s Supreme Court said.
“[He] accused the Justice of this Court who had made the asset freezing order and ordered that he pay interim support of bias and gross judicial misconduct [without any basis], even suggesting that she had ‘spread her legs wide’ to the claimant’s counsel,” said Mr Justice Geoffrey Gomery said, referring to colleague Madam Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick.
The case has been billed by Singapore’s Straits Times as one of the biggest overseas divorce cases involving a couple from the island state. The ruling described an “uncommonly wealthy” lifestyle of luxury holidays and cars and a portfolio of homes in Canada, Singapore, the US, Malaysia and Thailand.
Gobinathan Devathasan, who practices in Singapore and was once the head of neurology at the National University Hospital there, was ordered to pay his wife, Christie Devathasan, 55, a C$5.5 million lump sum in spousal support, representing both past obligations and future C$100,000 monthly payments until August 2024, when the situation could be reassessed.
He was also ordered to hand over C$612,084 in child support, and C$2.4million to equalise the division of assets.
The C$16.4 million in other assets granted to Christie Devathasan included a C$6.3 million house in West Vancouver, a C$2.3 million downtown Vancouver apartment, a C$2.5 million Florida apartment, a ranch, a ski chalet and four luxury vehicles including a Roll-Royce Silver Ghost.
Her husband’s share, C$21.4 million in assets, included seven homes in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, his C$8 million practice in the Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, a Maserati car and watches worth C$160,000.
Christie Devathasan is a former nurse and model. The couple met on the wards at the Singapore General Hospital in 1984, where they began an affair, both being married to other people at the time. They had a son together, married in 1997, then had a daughter.
The family moved to Canada in 2003 under the immigrant investor programme for millionaire migrants, but Gobinathan Devathasan moved back to Singapore because of his work.
Mr Justice Gomery described the couple’s “luxurious lifestyle”, that included “extravagant holidays in far-flung locations” and purchases of expensive vehicles, watches and C$100,000 in Persian rugs.
The judge took particular issue with a diamond-encrusted Audemars Piguet watch; the doctor claimed it was a gift from a patient (and not a personal purchase), which could have excluded it from the division of assets. But the judge said he did not believe the medical clinic’s documentation of the supposed gift. “I think that he made it up,” said Gomery.
“To be clear, from the commencement of the action until February 2018, Dr Devathasan repeatedly engaged in reprehensible misconduct,” Gomery said elsewhere in the ruling.
The judge said that Gobinathan Devathasan’s past behaviour necessitated a lump sum in spousal support, instead of periodic payments.
In a 2017 affidavit the doctor had said: “I will not pay a dollar for alimony now or till death or whatever any one decrees no matter what.” He also said “I have sworn I will pay with my ashes only”.
Although he had now promised to abide by the court’s rulings, “[there] is at least a risk that he will change his mind again,” said Gomery.
The judge noted how much damage the divorce caused for the family. In particular, Gobinathan’s relationship with his teenage daughter had suffered “utter collapse” after he sent a letter to her high school disowning her.
His relationship with the couple’s adult son was also addressed in the ruling. In 2016, Devathasan forfeited a C$480,000 deposit on a West Vancouver house he bought jointly with his son, after the doctor concluded that he had gone “rogue” by siding with his mother in the divorce. The younger Devathasan eventually negotiated the return of C$125,000 from the vendor.
Christie Devathasan’s lawyer, Lorne MacLean, was quoted by the Vancouver Sun as saying the divorce ruling was “record-breaking”.
He told the South China Morning Post his client did not want publicity for the case and requested privacy.
Mark Perry, Gobinathan Devathasan’s lawyer, said he was awaiting permission from his client to discuss the case.
The divorce is to be finalised within a month.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.