Wife paid 'unusually large' sum to spy on husband

$41,400 settlement for investigators to catch husband cheating cut to $10,000

A dentist who spent $55,000 on private investigators to spy on her cheating husband will get only $10,000 to settle the bill after a judge described the amount she paid as "unusually large".

The 35-year-old had wanted evidence to support a divorce from her 42-year-old husband of nine years. She suspected him of having affairs with two women.

Investigators caught the chief investment officer "behaving intimately" with one of them, and the couple divorced a year ago.

A settlement case was held to determine how their assets would be split, but in judgment grounds released yesterday, Judicial Commissioner George Wei shared the husband's scepticism over the investigators' bills.

The total 213 hours of surveillance cost $41,400 - or about $195 per hour.

The husband, defended by lawyers Andy Chiok and Loy Wee Sun, produced a source which charged about $400 per day or $6,000 for an unlimited package until evidence is found.

The wife, represented by lawyer Foo Siew Fong, spent another $13,600 on "data forensic extraction" from the husband's cellphone and laptop, according to the bills. These produced no results for the court.

The judge held that while it may not be fair to make comparisons, the sum of $41,400 was "outstandingly unreasonable".

Divorce lawyers told The Straits Times that such fees do not usually exceed $10,000.

The judge also questioned if it was necessary for the private investigator to spend 213 hours over 26 days spying on the husband. The main evidence came from just three days in September last year.

"Given that the wife relied on the husband's improper association with two other women as the grounds for divorce, in hindsight, there was sufficient evidence on Sept 10 (the first of the three days) to support her petition," said the judge.

The judge ordered that the couple's $5.5 million three-storey penthouse be sold, and 75 per cent be apportioned to the husband and 25 per cent to the wife. He based his decision on the respective financial contributions of the parties and the relatively short length of the marriage.

The couple cannot be named as they have two young children.

vijayan@sph.com.sg