Businessman who flouts divorce orders faces jail

A Singaporean businessman with more than $14 million in known assets faces jail after his ex-wife hauled him to court for contempt, after he failed to comply with divorce orders.

Last October, Mr Zheng Zhuan Yao, 53, was ordered to pay Madam Mok Kah Hong $7.05 million for her share of marital assets and $1.15 million in maintenance.

Mr Zheng, formerly known as Tay Chuan Yao, has yet to comply.

He said yesterday that while his family is rich, he is mired in debt. His father Tay Jui Chuan, also known as Tay Juhana, is the founder of Indonesia-based Sambu Group, which makes coconut products.

Madam Mok, 52, initiated proceedings for her ex-husband to be jailed for his "deliberate, cynical, persistent and repeated" breaches of orders from the Family Court, High Court and Court of Appeal over a period of 1 1/2 years.

Yesterday, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted that this was "one of the most egregious cases" of refusal to abide by court orders in a divorce and jail was warranted.

The only thing that stood in the way, he said, was Mr Zheng's contention that he was not suitable for prison as he was suffering from a variety of medical problems .

The chief justice called for a report from prison medical services to confirm if Mr Zheng's ailments, which include diabetes and hypertension, can be coped with in jail.

The couple, who have a son in his 20s, ended their 27-year marriage in 2010.

Mr Zheng has two other children with his mistress. Madam Mok initially sought $25 million.

In May last year, the High Court awarded her $1.15 million in maintenance and a $4.25 million Stevens Court flat which had been the couple's matrimonial home. The Court of Appeal later upped her share of the assets to $7.05 million.

Mr Zheng was ordered to pay the mortgage and transfer the property to his wife. But he flouted the order and the bank sold the flat for $3.5 million, of which Madam Mok received only $650,000 as the bulk was used to pay his other debts.

Madam Mok's lawyer, Ms Bernice Loo, said Mr Zheng belatedly sought help from his family in March and tried to sell his $3.2 million property in Indonesia only in May. She said he staved off her client's efforts whenever she tried to enforce court orders.

Mr Zheng's lawyer, Mr Bajwa Singh, said his client really had no money and was in ill health. No date has been set for the next hearing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Businessman who flouts divorce orders faces jail'. Print Edition | Subscribe