Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Horizon Twrs defendant moves to strike out suit

Says he was not a key player in en bloc deal sales committee

The newest instalment of the Horizon Towers saga has taken a fresh turn, with one of the parties being sued now applying for the lawsuits against him and another to be struck out.

Tan Kah Gee, a member of the original sales committee being sued by a group of minority owners, yesterday applied to the High Court for the suit to be struck out – saying the action was ’scandalous, frivolous (and) vexatious’.

He also filed his defence against the claims made against him, saying he was not a key player in the sales committee which brokered the en bloc sale of the development.

Mr Tan – and former sales committee chairman Arjun Samtani – are being sued by three sets of minority owners, who are looking to reclaim close to $1 million in legal and administrative costs which they say they incurred during the lengthy fight to keep their homes.

The minorities say they were made to defend their homes against an en bloc process actuated by a lack of good faith on the part of the sales committee, and had to spend much for their effort.

The collective sale of Horizon Towers was an affair which spanned more than two years and involved two Strata Titles Board (STB) hearings and two High Court hearings before finally being decided in the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal ruled against the sale of the development in April last year, saying the sales committee failed to get the best price possible for Horizon Towers. It awarded costs for the second High Court hearing, the second STB hearing and the Court of Appeal hearing to the minority owners who had objected to the sale.

But the minority owners are now suing Mr Tan and Mr Samtani to claim sums which they said they had spent in excess of what the Court of Appeal has awarded them. The three sets of owners are seeking between $117,000 and $370,000 in costs – making for a total of more than $800,000.

But Mr Tan – through his lawyers Senior Counsel Tan Cheng Han and Ian Lim of TSMP Law Corporation – has moved to strike out their claim. He says the entire remedy sought by the minorities was already dealt with by the Court of Appeal last April, when it decided on how it would award costs to the various parties. He said their claim ‘does not form a legitimate item of damage in a separate cause of action’, neither does it ‘flow from a different and additional wrong’ from the Court of Appeal judgment.

Mr Tan also responded to allegations made by the minorities that he was one of the ‘key players in the process leading up to the commencement, facilitation, management and finalisation of the collective sale process’.

In his defence, he claimed he was ‘not a key player’ and cited various correspondence and minutes of sales committee meetings which he said showed that he did not play a major role in the various aspects of the collective sale.

He also responded to the minorities’ claim that he and Mr Samtani ‘pushed for a quick sale of the property for their personal benefit’ because both had bought additional units in Horizon Towers, at the start of the collective sale process, and were keen to profit from that.

Mr Tan’s defence was that he bought a second unit because the location and price were very attractive, and that he had acted in good faith at all times. He said he disclosed his purchase of a second unit to the rest of the sales committee, as well as to one of the minority owners now suing him. He claims he also disclosed the purchase to the sales committee’s legal advisers and was told that he did not have to disclose the purchase of this unit.

The minorities had also claimed, in their suit, that the sales committee had failed to follow up on alternative offers for Horizon Towers, including a higher offer from a Vineyard Holdings. They cited the Court of Appeal judgment, which ruled that the sales committee had failed ‘to proactively follow up on the Vineyard offer and other expressions of interest’.

Mr Tan said Vineyard’s and other expressions of interest ‘never substantively materialised’ and that the sales committee had ‘questioned the credibility of the expression of interest from Vineyard and their level of seriousness given that Vineyard was a Hong Kong company that was not well known and its lawyers were not from a Singaporean firm, but from a small Malaysian law firm’.

He claims he suggested waiting for a higher offer, but that the majority of the sales committee did not agree. He said the sales committee genuinely felt they would not get a better offer than the one by Hotel Properties Ltd (HPL), and that they had been advised by their lawyers to accept the offer.

The minorities will have 14 days to respond to Mr Tan’s defence – and 14 days to respond to Mr Samtani’s defence, which was filed last Wednesday. The court will also convene a date for the hearing of Mr Tan’s striking-out summons.

The minority owners are represented by Kannan Ramesh of Tan Kok Quan Partnership. Mr Samtani is represented by N Sreenivasan from Straits Law Practice.

Source: Business Times, 27 Jan 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment