Chinese developer, MBS going to trial over $3.5m debt

A mainland Chinese property developer is going to trial in the High Court with Marina Bay Sands (MBS) over a $3.5 million gambling debt.

MBS had earlier won summary judgment to recover gaming debt comprising $2.98 million plus interest from Mr Luo Shandong, a former controlling shareholder of Catalist-listed Chinese developer Emerging Towns & Cities Singapore.

But he appealed, alleging he had already paid a junket operator in Macau called Tian Du Gaming Promotion Company, which he claims is an agent of MBS because it gets commissions from loans that MBS makes to him. He said that because stringent Chinese currency control regulations made it difficult to transfer funds from China to Singapore, he could not pay MBS directly.

Through Tian Du, he could "easily make a bank-to-bank transfer within China and settle outstanding debts to MBS without having to go through the hassle of finding a way to make payment out of China".

He claimed MBS took legal action against him after it found out Tian Du could not repay the sum because of financial difficulty.

High Court judge Choo Han Teck on Feb 27 allowed Mr Luo to defend his claims in a trial if he paid $3.5 million into court within 14 days.

The judge also cited an affidavit by Mr Liu Jian, a former manager of Tian Du, who alleged that the junket operator had collected money from Mr Luo on behalf of MBS. But the money was not used to settle Mr Luo's debt because of a dispute between Tian Du and MBS, said Mr Liu.

"If not for Liu Jian's affidavit, I would have dismissed this appeal, but the questions raised require a consideration on the merits, and after a full trial," said the judge.

MBS had disputed Mr Luo's claims that it demanded payment only two years after it advanced credit on Oct 28, 2015. MBS legal counsel Samantha Lee said MBS wrote to Mr Luo to demand payment on several occasions from Jan 21, 2016, to July 28, 2016, and then took legal action against him on Dec 22, 2016, in Hong Kong. The suit was discontinued last August and MBS then sued him in Singapore. She said MBS "never authorised Tian Du... as MBS' agent to provide credit or receive payment from Luo on behalf of MBS".

"Contrary to Luo's allegation that he had 'no direct dealings' with MBS, Luo would obtain credit directly from MBS by signing MBS' credit documents in the presence of MBS employees, which were countersigned by MBS employees."

Ms Lee also disputed allegations that Tian Du had operated a junket under the name, Starlink VIP Club, at MBS. "None of the lounges is operated by junkets, and MBS does not allow junket operations in its casino."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2018, with the headline 'Chinese developer, MBS going to trial over $3.5m debt'. Print Edition | Subscribe