Singapore

Man takes aunts and uncles to court over inactive family company

A 49-year-old has sued five paternal aunts and uncles, seeking to cash out from a family-owned property development company.

Mr Loke Chan Thai, who inherited his father's shares in Tai Heng Development in 2003, is asking the High Court to order his three aunts and two uncles to buy him out or wind up the company.

Despite owning a plot of vacant land and unsold houses on Old Yio Chu Kang Road worth close to $60 million, Tai Heng has not developed any property in the past two decades. Almost every year from 1996 to 2015, Tai Heng posted losses of about $400,000 a year.

Chan Thai, who owns about 14 per cent of the company, argued that his rights as a minority shareholder have been oppressed.

The defendants are Madam Loke Mui Heng, 84, Madam Loke Siew Heng, 81, Mr Loke Weng Yew, who died after the suit was filed, Madam Loke Seut Heng, 87, and Mr Lok Wing Cheong, 78.

Mui Heng and Siew Heng are directors of the company.

Chan Thai, represented by Mr Chia Ho Choon, argued the directors had made no efforts to continue any meaningful business activity, which has caused the company's assets to languish.

He argued the directors are operating Tai Heng for their own benefit by paying themselves excessive remuneration and fees, amounting to at least $3 million in 15 years.

He said ties between his aunts and uncles have soured, with them split into two camps. The dispute resulted in an application by Seut Heng and Wing Cheong to wind up the company in 2012.

It was settled but the terms of the settlement agreement have yet to be effected.

The defendants argued that development plans had been put on hold due to poor market conditions and the shareholder dispute.

They noted that Chan Thai was an employee of the company from 1992 to 2014, and his last drawn salary was $7,893.

The case has been fixed for a 15-day trial.

COURT & CRIME