Art gallery owner Jasmine Tay given 8 weeks' jail for contempt of court but intends to appeal

High-profile art gallery owner Jasmine Tay outside the State Courts on Feb 11, 2016.
High-profile art gallery owner Jasmine Tay outside the State Courts on Feb 11, 2016. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - High-profile art gallery owner Jasmine Tay, who disobeyed several court orders to disclose her assets in a US$1.6 million (S$2.2 million) art deal dispute, was on Tuesday (April 12), sentenced to eight weeks' jail for contempt of court.

Judicial Commissioner Edmund Leow said that a fine was not sufficient, even though she has since settled the dispute with Indonesian tycoon Tahir. He noted that her breaches were serious and she had taken active steps to "frustrate" the court orders.

The fact that she was on the verge of bankruptcy at the time did not mean she could get away scot-free, he said. Tay, 49, who set up the MAD Museum of Art and Design, was made bankrupt last November by one of her many creditors.

The jail term was stayed after her lawyer, Mr Dason L., said that she intends to appeal.

Ms Loh Jien Li, a lawyer acting for Mr Tahir, told the court that the police and the Official Assignee, which manages the affairs of bankrupts, have requested for some of the documents disclosed in the case.

Tay was sued by Indonesian banking and property tycoon Tahir, 63, for the return of US$1.6 million he had paid her in 2014 for a sculpture by Colombian artist Fernando Botero.

The deal was later called off. Mr Tahir contended that she had failed to show that the sculpture was being delivered to him. She claimed that he backed out after alleging that the artwork was a fake.

Mr Tahir lodged a police report against her and also filed a civil suit, which he eventually won after she failed to respond to it.

To enforce the judgment, Mr Tahir applied for Tay to be questioned in court to determine the assets she had available for paying him back.

She ignored two court dates and failed to give complete information about her finances. Mr Tahir took contempt proceedings against her last December. She was found guilty in January.

The next month, when she was put on the stand to explain why she breached the court orders, Mr Tahir's lawyer Daniel Chia accused her of "pulling a scam".

Tay later disclosed through her lawyers in writing that she was no longer in possession of the money. She admitted using US$1.4 million for "operational expenses for other purchases/deposits and drawings to myself", while US$200,000 "is currently with my agent".

This was different from the story she had earlier offered Mr Tahir to convince him that she had paid for the sculpture. She had previously produced a bank form to prove that she had transferred US$1.6 million from her OCBC account to a London-based art dealer.