Businessman told to pay $354,000 as security in lawsuit

Hong Kong court makes order in favour of defendant being sued for alleged poker debts

Singapore businessman Chris Au has been ordered to provide HK$2 million (S$354,000) as security in a lawsuit he has filed against a poker rival for alleged debts.

Mr Au, a Singapore permanent resident who used to run the former Ku De Ta nightclub at Marina Bay Sands, is suing Mr Steve Yoon for HK$7.2 million over losses in 33 poker games that the duo took part in back in 2008 with two others.

Hong Kong Registrar Lung Kim Wan, in judgment grounds released last week, held that "there is nothing that appears unjust to make an order for security for costs in favour of (Mr Yoon)".

A defendant who has reasonable concerns that the plaintiff will not be able to pay his legal costs if he (the defendant) wins the case, can apply to the court to order the plaintiff to place a sum prescribed by the court as security before the case is further pursued.

Mr Yoon has denied Mr Au's claims, arguing there was no intention to create legal obligations when the games were played.

He alleges instead that Mr Au and the other two players created a side ledger among themselves to effectively play against him to collect earnings and losses together without his knowledge and consent.

He is also counterclaiming for HK$513,000 against Mr Au - the value of shares and his car which Mr Au took in offsetting his debts.

Mr Yoon filed the application for security for costs last October.

His lawyer argued that Mr Au "ordinarily" lived outside Hong Kong as he moved to Singapore in 2010. Among other things, Mr Au was director of four Singaporean companies and had "tenuous connecttions" with Hong Kong, he said.

Mr Au countered that he worked in Singapore but carried on business in Hong Kong and had plans to expand to other parts of Asia.

The judge noted that the two parties could settle without a trial and pared down Mr Yoon's request for costs from HK$3,999,650 to HK$2,000,000.

Meanwhile in a separate case, Singapore-based tower crane supplier Crane World Asia - which is suing Hong Kong firm Hontrade Engineering for alleged outstanding payments under crane rental agreements - has succeeded in its efforts to avoid paying security for costs before the suit.

Hontrade had sought the security deposit but the court found Crane World had assets in Hong Kong, including two tower cranes with a net value of HK$4.2 million that are currently being leased to Hontrade, which form some limited security should it defeat Crane World's suit.

Madam Justice Queeny Au-Yeung accepted in judgment grounds released on Thursday that Crane World was not resident in Hong Kong and a Hong Kong judgment can be enforced in Singapore under mutual arrangements.

The judge ordered Hontrade to pay HK$90,000 in costs to Crane World for losing the application.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Businessman told to pay $354,000 as security in lawsuit'. Print Edition | Subscribe