Ex-wife of Singapore doctor granted S$25 million by Canadian court after divorce

Ex-wife of Singapore doctor granted S$25 million by Canadian court after divorce

doctor ordered to pay millions to ex wife
Gobinathan Devathasan, 69, whose behaviour was described as "reprehensible" during the litigation, was said to be a "problematic witness" as well. (Photo: Mount Elizabeth Hospital)

SINGAPORE: The ex-wife of a Singapore neurologist has been granted S$25 million in assets, child support and spousal support by a British Columbia court after a divorce.

Gobinathan Devathasan, 69, whose behaviour was described as "reprehensible" during the litigation, was ordered on Apr 29 to pay his ex-wife Ms Christie Devathasan C$5,498,344 in spousal support, with another C$612,084 for child support. 

During the course of the litigation, Dr Devathasan had handled funds in his Singapore bank account despite an asset freezing order, failed to disclose properties, deliberately embarrassed his daughter, and suggested that a judge had "spread her legs wide" to the claimant’s counsel, the court was told.

The doctor ran a private clinic at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, and had married Ms Devathasan in 1997. She filed for divorce in 2016. 

"UNCOMMONLY WEALTHY" COUPLE

The couple was described in the court judgment as being "uncommonly wealthy", and had owned expensive cars, jewellery, artwork, and homes, with investment properties in Canada, the United States, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. 

They met in 1984 when Dr Devathasan was 34 and Ms Devathasan was 19. Both parties, who were married to other people at that time, started an affair. The couple had their first child, a son, in 1987, but their relationship ended shortly after. 

They reunited later and they went on to live together in a "marriage-like relationship", court documents said.

Ms Devathasan divorced her first husband in 1996, while Dr Devathasan divorced his first wife, with whom he had two children with, in 1997. Shortly after, the couple got married in Singapore in August 1997. In 1999, they had their second child, a daughter.

Ms Devathasan and their two children moved to Canada in June 2004 for "better" educational opportunities, while Dr Devathasan resided in Singapore because he felt that the opportunities to work as a physician in Canada were "not at all attractive".

The couple's relationship deteriorated in 2015 and early 2016, according to the court papers. Dr Devathasan's relationship with his children also soured, with his daughter refusing to speak with him after a visit in April 2016.

Ms Devathasan commenced divorce proceedings on Jul 8, 2016. The court documents revealed that Dr Devathasan resisted this "strenuously for some time".

DR DEVATHASAN A "PROBLEMATIC WITNESS", SAYS JUDGE

Ms Devathasan obtained an asset freezing order and a protection order, and these orders were served to Dr Devathasan on Aug 26, 2016. The doctor claimed that they were not binding as he was in Singapore and took steps to deal with his assets.

He violated the asset freezing order, back dating the transfer of his shares to make it appear as if he had performed them before he was served. He also instructed a tenant in his Toronto property to pay rent to him in Singapore to avoid the asset freezing order.

Justice Gomery wrote in his judgment: "In correspondence with the court and various government agencies, and again without any basis at all, he accused the Justice of this court who had made the asset freezing order and ordered that he pay interim support of bias and gross judicial misconduct, even suggesting that she had 'spread her legs wide' to the claimant’s counsel."

Justice Gomery also pointed out that Dr Devathasan was a "problematic witness", and highlighted three instances. One of them was his failure to disclose an expensive watch.

The documents showed that Dr Devathasan owned a diamond encrusted AP watch worth between S$80,000 and S$100,000, which had been a gift from a patient. Under Singapore Medical Council's ethical guidelines, a doctor has to refuse gifts that a "reasonable observer" would deem extravagant.

To conceal this, Dr Devathasan lied to both his wife and son about how he obtained it. He told his son that staff at a high-end jeweler's shop treated him "like a Bangladeshi rickshaw driver" so he purchased the watch with S$80,000 cash.

When asked in October last year to corroborate his account of a gift, Dr Devathasan produced an inauthentic clinical record of it.

In the second instance, he stated that he owned a Rosyth property after initially claiming that it was a property held in trust for his employee two years before.

In the third instance, Justice Gomery questioned where the S$2 million cash in a safe in Dr Devathasan's house came from, asking if he obtained it by unrecorded cash withdrawals from his clinic. It was found that Dr Devathasan had temporarily exhausted his liquid cash reserves as of October 2014.

"I find that these are three instances of deliberately false evidence given by Dr Devathasan in the course of his testimony," the judge said.

"I WILL PAY WITH MY ASHES ONLY"

Dr Devathasan's past conduct was also taken into account in deciding ongoing and future child support. He has to pay C$33,084 for past child support and a lump sum of C$579,000 for child support for the period through to June 2022. 

"For a long time he was utterly unwilling to acknowledge or fulfill his parental and spousal responsibilities or acknowledge this court’s role in adjudicating those responsibilities," the judge wrote. 

In an affidavit sworn on May 22, 2017, he stated: “I will not pay a dollar for alimony now or till death or whatever any one decrees, no matter what." 

He also said that he had sworn he would "pay with my ashes only", adding that he did not think his daughter needed child support "at all" at 17 years old.

In one instance, he sent a letter to Ms Devathasan and his daughter's high school, disowning her.

"She no longer wishes to have anything to do with him," the court documents revealed.

"Dr Devathasan’s misconduct undoubtedly made this litigation more difficult and much more expensive than it ought to have been,"Justice Gomery concluded. 

The judge ordered Dr Devathasan to pay Ms Devathasan C$2,351,000 in connection with the allocation of family property and debt. He will also have to pay a total of C$612,084 in child support, and C$5,498,344 in total for spousal support.

The C$16.4 million in assets granted to Ms Devathasan include a house in West Vancouver, worth C$6.2 million, an C$2.35 million apartment in Vancouver and a C$2.48 million apartment in Florida.

The doctor was granted C$21.4 million after the proceedings.

The judge described Dr Devathasan as a "hardworking man all his life", adding that the doctor worked Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings throughout his career in private practices.

"He has loyal patients," Justice Gomery added.

Source: CNA/aa(mi)

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