A wealthy entrepreneur is suing a bankrupt and four others for the return of $6.5 million meant to have been invested in China but which allegedly went missing instead.
Singaporean Alan Zhou, who set up a profitable ship chartering and brokering business, claims former private banker Karl Liew breached personal guarantees and made misrepresentations that induced him into the $6 million investments.
Mr Liew was made a bankrupt early this year. It precluded him from defending himself or being represented by lawyers in the case.
In September 2015, he was the victim of harassment by debt collectors who visited his Chancery Lane home seeking to recover alleged debts owed to Mr Zhou. The five debt collectors were subsequently dealt with in court for their aggressive behaviour and insulting words.
The other four defendants in the suit include Realm Capital, a British Virgin Islands company Mr Liew set up. A court default judgment has been entered for the $6.5 million sought - the amount of $6 million plus interest - as the company did not enter an appearance.
Mr Zhou is seeking damages of up to $5.3 million against the firm System Impact, Ms Mah Mei Sin and Mr Gobindram Harjani.
In 2011, Mr Zhou, a former client of Mr Liew, made the four investment agreements worth $6 million for a residential project and bridging loans to companies in Wenzhou, China. A portion of the sums invested belonged to Mr Pu Dawei, a mutual acquaintance. The investments were introduced to Mr Liew by Ms Chen Jie, a Chinese national who was the contact point for the recipients of the investments in China.
Under the investment pacts, Mr Zhou was required to transfer the funds to the account of System Impact, and at times to Ms Mah, its shareholder, according to court papers filed.
But by the second half of 2012, Mr Zhou stopped receiving the investment updates and interest payments. He pursued the case with Mr Liew and learnt the investments were allegedly not used for the intended purposes. When the investment terms expired and the total of $6.53 million was unpaid, he called upon the alleged personal guarantees given by Mr Liew.
In denying the claims, Mr Liew, who in court documents was identified as the son of prominent businessman and founding president and former chief executive officer of CapitaLand Group Liew Mun Leong, is challenging the enforceability of the investment pacts and personal guarantees.
He was subpoenaed to testify in the High Court last week by Mr Zhou's lawyer Eugene Quah from RHTLaw Taylor Wessing.
In the run-up to the trial, Mr Zhou found that Ms Mah and System Impact had allegedly transferred the investment funds to Mr Gobindram, owner of Silk Rose, who was seen as a further intermediary. Mr Gobindram, represented by lawyer Lim Kim Hong, denied the claims, calling them baseless and unsubstantiated, and affirmed all monies received were remitted to China.
In his opening statement in court on Tuesday, Mr Quah said the defendants have all conveniently accused Ms Chen - who is absent from the case - of running away with the funds.
The High Court hearing before Judicial Commissioner Audrey Lim continues next week.