Art gallery owner gets 8 weeks' jail for contempt

Ms Tay was sued by Indonesian tycoon Tahir for the recovery of US$1.6 million which he paid her in 2014 for a sculpture. She ignored court orders and he took out contempt proceedings against her last December.
Ms Tay was sued by Indonesian tycoon Tahir for the recovery of US$1.6 million which he paid her in 2014 for a sculpture. She ignored court orders and he took out contempt proceedings against her last December.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

She disobeyed court orders to disclose assets in $2.2m dispute

A high-profile art gallery owner, who disobeyed four court orders to disclose her assets in a US$1.6 million (S$2.2 million) art deal dispute, was yesterday sentenced to eight weeks in jail for contempt of court.

Judicial Commissioner Edmund Leow said a fine was not sufficient, even though Jasmine Tay has settled the dispute with Indonesian tycoon Tahir, who goes by one name.

He noted that her breaches were serious and she took active steps to "frustrate" the court orders. She suppressed bank statements to hide the fact that she withdrew $3,000 from her OCBC account - a breach of an injunction to freeze her assets.

"Being on the verge of bankruptcy does not give debtors an excuse to disregard court orders," he said.

The jail term was stayed after her lawyer, Mr Dason L., said she intends to appeal.

Ms Tay, 49, who opened Jasmine Fine Art in 1993 and MAD Museum of Art and Design in 2009, was made bankrupt last November by one of her long list of creditors.

Mr Tahir's lawyer, Ms Loh Jien Li, told the court that the police and the Official Assignee, which manages the affairs of bankrupts, have requested some of the documents disclosed in the case.

Ms Tay was sued by Mr Tahir, 63, for the recovery of US$1.6 million which he paid her in 2014 for a sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero. The deal was called off. Mr Tahir contended that she failed to show the sculpture was being delivered to him. She claimed he backed out after alleging it was a fake.

Mr Tahir lodged a police report against her and also filed a civil suit, which he eventually won after she failed to respond to it.

To enforce the judgment, Mr Tahir applied for Ms Tay to be questioned in court to determine the assets she had available for paying him back. She ignored two court dates and failed to answer a questionnaire about her finances.

After Mr Tahir obtained a Mareva injunction - which stops Ms Tay from disposing of her assets - she was ordered to disclose her assets but she disregarded this.

When Mr Tahir found out she was bankrupt, he took out contempt proceedings against her last December.

In January, Ms Tay finally turned up in court and admitted contempt. The next month, she took the stand to explain why she flouted the court orders, but the judicial commissioner said she could not give any satisfactory explanation.

She eventually disclosed the required information, admitting that she used US$1.4 million from the sum paid by Mr Tahir for "operational expenses for other purchases /deposits and drawings to myself".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Art gallery owner gets 8 weeks' jail for contempt'. Print Edition | Subscribe