Friends of man killed by father-in-law lose lawsuit for a share in $4.6m Holland Village property

The friends claimed that they each owned a share of the property registered in Mr Spencer Tuppani's (left) sole name. PHOTOS: ST FILE, SPENCER TUPPANI

SINGAPORE - The High Court on Monday (Aug 29) dismissed a lawsuit brought by two friends of businessman Spencer Tuppani, who was fatally stabbed by his father-in-law in 2017, for a share of a $4.6 million Holland Village property.

Mr Jason Er Kok Yong, 42, and Mr Lawrence Lim Soon Hwa, 46, claimed that they each own a one-third share of the property that was registered in Mr Tuppani's sole name.

They claimed the three of them agreed to each contribute $535,200 in cash towards the purchase of the Lorong Mambong property that was tenanted to well-known pub Wala Wala Cafe Bar.

The suit was filed against the administrators of Mr Tuppani's estate - his widow Shyller Tan Cheng Cheng, her sister Sherry Tan San San and Mr Tuppani's first wife Felicia Keh Lay Hong.

Justice Mavis Chionh found various aspects of Mr Er and Mr Lim's evidence to be "full of gaps", "riddled with inconsistencies" and "highly suspicious".

Mr Er and Mr Lim had relied on a trust deed, prepared by Mr Tuppani's lawyer in May 2017, in which Mr Tuppani declared that he held a two-thirds share in the property on trust for the duo.

The deed was never signed by Mr Tuppani, who died on July 10, 2017.

Justice Chionh said the deed by itself was not credible evidence of a common intention for the three men to jointly own the property and for Mr Tuppani to hold Mr Er and Mr Lim's shares on trust for them.

The judge agreed with the defendants that Mr Tuppani had asked his lawyer to draft the trust deed in the light of his impending divorce, and the anticipated fight over the division of assets.

It emerged from WhatsApp messages between Mr Tuppani and his lawyer that Mr Tuppani had wanted a trust deed prepared so that he could "show Shyller" that the Lorong Mambong property was "theirs not mine", the judge said.

Mr Er and Mr Lim also claimed that the trio had discussed the property purchase in their WhatsApp chat group, but could not produce the chats, which the judge said was highly suspicious.

The pair claimed they deleted the chat group within weeks of Mr Tuppani's death because they felt "sad" seeing it.

"I found the plaintiffs' attempts to explain its unavailability to be shifty and wholly lacking in credibility," said Justice Chionh.

The judge also had grave doubts as to whether each man had in fact paid $535,200.

"I found the evidence adduced by the plaintiffs of their alleged financial contributions to be riddled with inconsistencies and unexplained gaps and generally lacking in credibility," she said.

Justice Chionh also dismissed a separate suit filed by Mr Er, claiming sole ownership of a $566,000 BMW M6 that was bought in Mr Tuppani's name.

She found his case - that there was a common intention for Mr Tuppani to hold the car on trust for him - to be "incoherent, internally inconsistent and frankly unbelievable".

Justice Chionh also dismissed a counterclaim brought by the defendants against Mr Er for $1.1 million that Mr Tuppani paid him from August 2014 to May 2017.

She said the six-year limitation period has passed in respect of payments made in 2014.

As for the other payments, the defendants failed to produce evidence that Mr Er owed them a duty to account for the money.

Mr Tuppani, 38, was fatally stabbed by his father-in-law, Tan Nam Seng, on July 10, 2017, in Boon Tat Street.

Tan Nam Seng fatally stabbed Mr Spencer Tuppani on July 10, 2017, in Boon Tat Street. PHOTO: ST FILE

Tan, 74, is serving an 8½-year jail term for the killing.

He was upset over how Mr Tuppani had treated his daughter, Ms Shyller Tan. He also believed that his son-in-law had cheated him of his shipping business.

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