Pre-school owner gets another month of jail for flouting court order; husband gets 2 weeks

This is the second time that Song Fanrong, 45, is punished for contempt of court for defying the same court order. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - A pre-school owner in prison for contempt of court was handed an additional month's jail for persisting in trying to sell her kindergarten business, despite a court order to freeze her assets.

It was the second time that Song Fanrong, 45, was punished for contempt of court for defying the same court order.

This time, her husband, Teo Kuei Yang, 48, was also found guilty of contempt and given two weeks' jail for his attempts to sell off the kindergartens run by his wife.

He was allowed to defer his sentence by two weeks to settle personal affairs and make arrangements for their two children, aged 10 and 11.

Senior Judge Lai Siu Chiu blasted Song for being "one of the worst" cases of contempt. "You never learn your lesson," said the judge.

Clad in a purple prison uniform, Song replied calmly in Mandarin: "Your Honour, do you know how difficult it is to run a business?"

She was made a bankrupt earlier this month after filing an application to make herself one.

Song, who ran eight kindergartens under her company Friedrich Frobel Holding, was sued for $9.5 million in March by three businessmen from China.

The three alleged that Song, a Singapore citizen originally from China, misled them into giving her money to invest in her kindergartens and to buy property here.

The trio obtained a Mareva injunction to freeze her assets pending the outcome of the suit.

Despite the injunction, she sold 2 per cent of her shares in Friedrich Frobel Holding and some of its stake in the Buttercups kindergarten chain. She collected $300,000 from the deals between May and July.

In July, the trio took out contempt of court proceedings against Song for breaching the injunction. Despite being put on notice about the consequences of flouting a court order, Song and Teo continued trying to sell off the business.

A message broadcast on a WeChat group advertised the sale of the Frobel Lilac kindergarten in Kallang for $150,000. Teo's mobile number was provided as the contact.

This prompted the plaintiffs to start a second set of contempt proceedings, even while the first was pending.

For the first set of proceedings, Song was put in jail on Sept 11 and given a chance to cough up the $300,000. When she failed to do so on Sept 27, she was sentenced to a futher five months' jail.

On Tuesday, for the second set of proceedings, Teo's lawyer, Mr Andrew Goh from Fortis Law Corporation, argued that his client's role was confined to being the point of contact and that Song was the one in charge.

But Mr Quek Mong Hua from Lee & Lee, representing the plaintiffs, noted that three days after his wife was first jailed, Teo tried to sell four kindergartens for $2 million. This deunked Teo's contention that he played a minimal role, he argued.

He added that Song and Teo were irresponsible by selling the kindergartens at an "inflated" value when they were in bad financial shape.

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