SINGAPORE – SA Tours managing director Kay Swee Pin said in court testimony that her long-time lover, the travel agency’s former boss, told her in 2010 that he had decided to make her the sole owner of the firm’s parent company by transferring his shares to her.
Mr Ng Kong Yeam told Ms Kay this would spare her from going through a probate process, which could lead to ugly fights over his estate, and was more practical for keeping the business going in the event of his death, she said.
“The shares, all along he wanted to give to me, because all the company owned was our home and the business we built up,” she told the High Court on Friday (July 19).
Madam Kay, 66, was on the stand over two days in the ongoing suit filed against her and her daughter by Mr Ng’s wife and children.
The case is brought on behalf of Mr Ng, 80, who now has dementia. He moved back with his wife in Johor Baru in 2013 on Madam Kay’s suggestion, the court heard.
The Ngs, who are Malaysians, are seeking the return of 799,999 shares in Natwest Holdings that they alleged had been fraudulently transferred to Madam Kay in 2010.
The transfer made Madam Kay, who originally held one share, the sole shareholder of Natwest, which was valued at about $20 million at the time.
Natwest owns SA Tours and a $4 million Cairnhill apartment, which has been home for Mr Ng’s Singapore family from 1995.
Madam Kay testified that it had always been Mr Ng’s intention to have SA Tours and the apartment, his two main assets in Singapore, transferred to her and her daughter to provide for them.
The transfer form, dated Nov 1, 2010, was lodged with the company secretary on April 1, 2011.
As to why the form stated that she paid $1 million for the shares, Madam Kay said she and Mr Ng agreed on it as a “nice round figure”.
It took into account the money she had lent Mr Ng over the years when he was facing financial difficulties and the fact that she had paid for “everything” in the household, she added.
Madam Kay said Mr Ng told her to lodge the form after he gave the go-ahead. She said he told her that he needed some time to ensure that Natwest’s assets were “unencumbered”, a term used to describe a property without a mortgage or loans secured against it.
Senior Counsel Roderick Martin, acting for the Ng family, put it to her that this conversation did not take place.
He said there were mortgages on the apartment and several units at People’s Park Complex owned by SA Tours in the time between the form was signed and lodged.
This did not square with what Mr Ng said about making sure the assets were “free from encumbrance”, he added.
Questioned by her own lawyer Clement Ong, Madam Kay said the properties were mortgaged to get banking facilities for SA Tours.
She said what she meant by “unencumbered” was that Mr Ng wanted to make sure there was no money owing to the banks.
When Judicial Commissioner Vincent Hoong asked why she used the term “unencumbered”, she replied it was Mr Ng who used the word and she merely followed.
Mr Martin also noted that Madam Kay transferred all the 27 million shares that Natwest held in SA Tours to her son-in-law Jared Liew last year.
When he asked if she knew that she may not get her shares back if he were to split with her daughter, Madam Kay said they have an understanding that she was the beneficial owner.
Mr Martin also questioned why Mr Ng would give her the shares, pointing to two separate e-mails in 2008 and 2010 in which she complained about his womanising, sex addiction and being treated like a toy.
She said these were only two e-mails of her venting against the backdrop of a 30-year-long relationship.
She said she wrote to Mr Ng to get her point across but they always worked things out as there was love between them.
“That’s why he stayed with me till the very end even when he became so ill. He was very attached to me,” she said.
The trial continues.