Younger sister wins court fight against elder sister over US$313k and 25% share in condo

The two fell out over the Northvale condominium unit they bought in the late 1990s with another sister.
The two fell out over the Northvale condominium unit they bought in the late 1990s with another sister.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - An administrative officer who sued her elder sister to get back more than US$313,000 (S$428,000) the latter had invested on her behalf, as well as her 25 per cent stake in a $800,000 Choa Chu Kang apartment, has won her case in the High Court.

In a written judgment on Wednesday (July 31), Judicial Commissioner Ang Cheng Hock described the case as "an unfortunate one, not only because of the number of serious allegations made by the sisters against each other, but also because they were previously close and now have fallen out with each other over money".

Elder sister Ang Siew Fah, also known as Diana, an accountant, did not deny that she owed US$313,827.30 to younger sister Ang Bee Yian, also known as Jessie.

The sum represents money that Jessie had entrusted with Diana to invest in foreign currency and the returns.

Diana got her accountancy degree in 1977, while Jessie completed her GCE A levels in 1979.

Diana also accepted that Jessie had paid $200,580 in cash for a 25 per cent share in a unit at the Northvale condominium.

She, however, claimed that she had funded more than $2 million for Jessie's margin trading activities between 2006 and 2016, and all these amounts were completely lost.

Diana claimed Jessie had agreed the trading losses could be set-off against the US$313,827.30 and the 25 per cent share in the Northvale unit.

But the judge rejected Diana's claims, saying they were "quite unbelievable".

He found it incredible that Diana would continue to bankroll Jessie's trading without question despite mounting losses over the years.

He also noted that the two sisters regularly communicated through text messages and e-mail but there was no mention of the funding and set-off arrangements alleged by Diana.

On the contrary, there were text messages in which Diana acknowledged that she owed money to Jessie.

The judge said Jessie did not come across as someone who was sophisticated or knowledgable about margin trading. In contrast, Diana was a seasoned investor.

There was evidence that Diana controlled the trading accounts. E-mails were sent from the bank to Diana when there were margin calls and it was Diana who phoned the bank officers about them.

The dispute over the sum of money arose in 2009, when Jessie transferred $450,000 into a joint account with Diana to invest in foreign currency.

After the investments matured, Diana transferred US$313,827.30 - the converted sum due to Jessie - to her own fixed deposit account.

In an e-mail in September 2012, Jessie asked Diana to return the money. The amount was not repaid despite repeated demands.

In one text message in 2013, Jessie said: "I m not a fool anymore... Come to money u got no conscience. I want my money back."

Separately, the two also fell out over the Northvale unit they bought in the late 1990s with another sister, Madam Ang Siew Chin, also known as Eunice.

Diana paid 50 per cent of the purchase price, while Jesssie and Eunice each paid 25 per cent.

The property, registered only in the names of Diana and Eunice, was rented out, with the proceeds shared among the trio.

In May 2016, Jessie demanded that Diana transfer 25 per cent of the legal ownership of the property to her, or that the property be sold and the sale proceeds distributed among the three sisters.

In August 2016, Diana stopped paying Jessie her share of the proceeds and stopped providing her with an account of the rental earned.

On Wednesday, the court ordered Diana to return the money and to take steps to rectify the land register to properly reflect that Jessie has a 25 per cent share of the apartment.