Hong Kong woman wins property tussle with Singapore man

Ms Ng So Hang asked the High Court to declare her as the sole owner of the St Martin's Drive unit as she alone financed its purchase.
Ms Ng So Hang asked the High Court to declare her as the sole owner of the St Martin's Drive unit as she alone financed its purchase.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

She filed suit to be declared sole owner of flat registered in both names, he countersued

When a Hong Kong businesswoman bought a $3.1 million apartment in Tanglin in 2005, she registered the property jointly with her long-time companion, a Singaporean man more than 16 years her senior.

More than a decade later, Ms Ng So Hang, now 64, sued businessman Wong Sang Woo, now 81, and asked the High Court to declare her as the sole owner of the St Martin's Drive unit as she alone financed its purchase.

In response, Mr Wong contended that they were in an intimate relationship for years - which she denies - and that regardless of the amount of contribution, there was a common intention to share the property.

He countersued for a share of the rental proceeds and a refund of $1.5 million he had paid her.

In a written judgment released this week, the court ruled in favour of Ms Ng, finding that the property belonged only to her, and dismissed Mr Wong's counterclaim.

Justice Aedit Abdullah said there was sufficient evidence that Ms Ng had paid for the property without any contributions from Mr Wong.

The judge found that the payments made by Mr Wong to Ms Ng were for other purposes.

There was no common intention to share the property, the judge concluded. He noted that Mr Wong was unable to give any details of when the couple discussed or formed the intention to share the property.

Mr Wong has appealed.

The pair met in 1989, when he was 52 and she was 36, and ran an apparel business together. They were never legally married.

The nature of their relationship, as well as the reason for buying the property, is disputed.

Mr Wong contended that they were in a "loving relationship" and lived together as husband and wife in Hong Kong. He said they bought the Singapore property with the objective of using it as their retirement home.

Ms Ng denies this, claiming that they were only business associates and companions who lived under the same roof but had separate bedrooms.

She said the property was for investment purposes and she had no intention of retiring here.

In 2016, she filed a suit, seeking a declaration that the property belonged beneficially to her alone, as well as an order for Mr Wong to transfer his rights, title and interests in the unit over to her.

Ms Ng, represented by Mr Justin Chan of Tito Isaac & Co, relied on remittance records to show that she alone paid for the property.

Mr Wong, represented by Mr Nicholas Narayanan of Nicholas & Tan Partnership, submitted photographs and messages to show that they were in a romantic relationship.

In the judgment, Justice Aedit said the nature of the relationship was not particularly integral to the outcome, but he accepted that there was a relationship of "some closeness if not intimacy", though it may have eventually come to an end.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2018, with the headline 'HK woman wins property tussle with S'pore man'. Print Edition | Subscribe