Housewife staves off bankruptcy over husband's $16m business debt

SINGAPORE - Asked by her husband to sign some documents that would mortgage their detached house in Katong in order to secure a loan for his business, some seven years ago, a 49-year-old housewife agreed .

But the company defaulted on the loan, and the bank started bankruptcy proceedings against Madam Lim Lee Lee over an outstanding $16.2 million.

This is the remainder of the amount owed after she and her husband sold their Branksome Road house for $10 million in March this year (2017) to repay UOB.

Earlier this week, Madam Lim succeeded in staving off bankruptcy after the High Court set aside a statutory demand, a precursor to the bankruptcy application, from the bank.

In setting aside the statutory demand, Assistant Registrar James Lee said certain issues would have to be resolved in a full trial. UOB can appeal against the decision or file a lawsuit against Madam Lim to pursue its claim.

Madam Lim contended that she was ignorant of the effects of the mortgage and had acted under the "undue influence" of her husband - claims UOB argued were not credible.

Her husband, Mr Ling Kim Chye, who had signed a separate guarantee, has been declared bankrupt.

According to court documents, Mr Ling was a "sleeping partner" in bunkering company Tenshin Trading. Madam Lim was not involved in the business and has been a housewife for the past 22 years.

In April 2010, Madam Lim, whose highest educational qualification is an O Level certificate, was asked by her husband to execute a mortgage on their house, which she co-owns, for the sake of his business.

She said she was initially reluctant because she was afraid the family would lose the roof over their heads. Nevertheless, she felt she had no choice but to sign as her husband had asked her to do so, said Madam Lim, who was represented by Mr Lee Ee Yang from Covenant Chambers.

She said she trusted him when he told her that the only consequence of her agreement was that the bank would take the house if the company did not repay the loan.

Madam Lim said she would not have agreed to the mortgage had she known she was liable for the company's debt beyond the sales proceeds from the house.

Both she and Mr Ling said no lawyer explained to them the consequences of the mortgage.

But UOB contended that Madam Lim was fully aware of them.

The bank, represented by Mr Ryan Loh from Rajah & Tann, said a lawyer handling the mortgage had explained to her that if the sales proceeds of the house were insufficient to fully repay the debt, UOB was still entitled to claim the shortfall from her.

The bank also argued that there was no evidence that Mr Ling had pressured Madam Lim into signing the documents by taking advantage of her trust and confidence in him.

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