Hour Glass co-founder Jannie Chan hauled to court again by ex-husband over e-mails

Picture of Jannie Chan arriving of Supreme Court on July 5, 2017.
Picture of Jannie Chan arriving of Supreme Court on July 5, 2017.ST PHOTO: DAVE LIM

SINGAPORE - Prominent businesswoman Jannie Chan is facing possible jail time and a fine for contempt of court proceedings brought by her former husband, who said she sent him hundreds of allegedly harrassing and defamatory e-mail messages.

Ms Chan, 72, who co-founded luxury watch retailer The Hour Glass with ex-husband Henry Tay, 73, and is widely recognised as the face of the public-listed company, was in court on Wednesday (July 5) to explain her intentions for sending the e-mails.

She said they were largely updates on matters relating to their daughter Audrey and her children, as well as updates on the affairs of the companies owned by her and Dr Tay. The couple ended their 41-year marriage in 2010.

"Henry can send me e-mails... why can't I send back?" she said.

During her half hour on the stand, Ms Chan complained that she felt harassed by the threat of legal action by her ex-husband's lawyers. "My life is great except for court cases," she said.

Several times, she had to be stopped by Judicial Commissioner Hoo Sheau Peng and her own lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam when she veered off topic, raising grievances against Dr Tay's "Korean lady friend".

"Sorry, I'm very emotional when it comes to this. My children are my life. This woman, in three years, changed everything," she told the court.

This is the third time Dr Tay has taken contempt of court proceedings against his ex-wife for flouting multiple court orders which restrained her from defaming him and from harassing him by sending him e-mails without his consent.

The first was withdrawn after she apologised. She was fined $30,000 the second time.

The orders arose out of a lawsuit filed by Dr Tay against Ms Chan in 2014 for sending him 1,260 e-mails between November 2013 and September 2014, which he alleged were defamatory or amounted to harassment. Some e-mails were sent to other recipients including family members, friends, employees, and Cabinet ministers.

The current proceedings relate to 446 e-mails sent between March last year and February and 42 e-mails sent between April and July this year.

On Monday, Dr Tay's lawyer, Ms Megan Chia, told the court: "There was yet another defamatory e-mail sent this morning."

Ms Chia did not press for a specific sentence but said any financial sanction should be higher than the previous fine of $30,000 to deter her from sending him further e-mails.

Mr Thuraisingam contended that the e-mails did not breach any court order. He argued that the order only restrained Ms Chan from sending e-mails which had the effect of harassing Dr Tay, not from sending him any e-mail at all.

He argued that she had sent out the e-mails as she was under stress and pressure owing to a series of "unfortunate family events".

The court is expected to give a decision at the end of the month.