Prominent architect Albert Hong pledges banker's guarantee in lawsuit

Case centres on 10,000 shares of a holding firm for a hospital in Medan

Prominent architect Albert Hong has pledged to put up a banker's guarantee to avoid being made a bankrupt after initially refusing to make a court-ordered payment.

The High Court in October issued an oral judgment in favour of American investment firm AAHG, ordering Dr Hong to pay $2.5 million plus  $160,000 costs and accrued interest. 

Dr Hong has appealed the judgment.  

Yesterday's pledge to put up a bank guarantee meant a hearing yesterday on bankruptcy proceedings against Dr Hong was adjourned to Dec 29.

AAHG lawyer Siraj Omar of Premier Law told The Straits Times yesterday that once the guarantee - it means a bank pays the full amount if Dr Hong fails to - is given, it will withdraw the bankruptcy petition against him.

AAHG applied last month to have Dr Hong declared bankrupt after he refused to make payment pending the appeal.

Dr Hong, 81, is the chairman of RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, which was acquired in 2013 by tycoon Peter Lim's firm Rowsley.

The case centres on 10,000 shares of Universal Medical, a holding firm for a hospital in Medan.

AAHG claims to be the owner of the shares, which were valued at about $2.5 million, after acquiring a beneficial interest in them from the liquidation trust of a firm that had gone bankrupt.

The 10,000 shares in Universal were transferred to Dr Hong and later sold as part of a sale of almost all of the company to Columbia Asia Healthcare in Malaysia.

In the judgment, the court noted that Mr Hong had "little personal knowledge of the matters in this claim as he had left it to his brother (Edward Hong) to manage these matters on his behalf".  Mr Edward Hong had also given evidence on his behalf.  

The High Court ruled that there is "no question that (Dr Hong) had been enriched at (AAHG's) expense. The transfer of the shares to Dr Hong... clearly benefited (him)".

The court ruling said that Dr Hong and his brother Edward called a Universal board meeting in December 2007 and passed resolutions to cancel the 10,000 shares held by the bankrupt firm and to register Dr Hong as the owner.

Judicial Commissioner Chua Lee Ming added that AAHG "would have been entitled to recover the value of the shares from Dr Hong".

Dr Hong, who has appealed against the judgment, designed many landmarks here, including the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the MAS building, Republic Plaza, Tung Centre and Bayshore Park condominium.

He was president of the Singapore Institute of Architects from 1973 to 1976, served as a Housing Board director and received the Public Service Star award twice, as well as the Panglima Negara Bintang Sarawak from Malaysia and an MBE from Britain. He was named Singapore businessman of the year in 1994.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'Architect avoids bankruptcy with bank guarantee'. Print Edition | Subscribe