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Judge dismisses parts of AHTC's bid to amend claims against WP leaders in multimillion-dollar lawsuit

Judge dismisses parts of AHTC's bid to amend claims against WP leaders in multimillion-dollar lawsuit

(From left) Workers' Party MPs Pritam Singh, Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim leaving the Supreme Court on Oct 8, 2018. (Photo: Koh Mui Fong/TODAY)

SINGAPORE: A judge has dismissed parts of an application by Aljunied Hougang Town Council (AHTC) to amend its claims against Workers' Party (WP) leaders and their co-defendants in a multimillion-dollar civil suit over their management of the town council.

In an oral judgment WP chief Pritam Singh made available via his Facebook page on Thursday (Aug 27), Justice Kannan Ramesh said it was "important" to note that the town council had sought these amendments only after he delivered his verdict in October 2019.

He had found Mr Singh, Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim and former WP secretary-general Low Thia Khiang liable for breaching different types of duties, based on the original claims.

Other defendants in the suits are then-AHTC councillors Chua Zhi Hon and Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, along with managing agent FM Solutions & Services and its director How Weng Fan, who also acts in the capacity of her late husband Danny Loh.

The WP leaders and AHTC councillors were tried for breaching duties owed to AHTC and Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council (PRPTC) between 2011 and 2015.

Central to the trial were the four contracts they awarded to FMSS without calling for a tender, with FMSS' leaders labelled persons with conflicts of interest due to the dual roles they held in both AHTC and FMSS.

Another key issue was the "flawed" approval process for payments for services FMSS rendered to AHTC.

However, after the verdict was delivered, AHTC applied to amend its statement of claim in May this year in ways that increased the amount of damages sought.

Justice Ramesh also noted that AHTC had chosen to make its claims against the defendants separately from PRPTC, instead of consolidating them.

Part of AHTC's arguments urging the court to grant its sought amendments was that "the ends of justice" required that the amendments be granted so that its pleadings were aligned with PRPTC's.

"Notably, AHTC has not offered an explanation, either in the supporting affidavit or in its submissions, as to why it did not at the outset align its pleadings with PRPTC’s, and why the application has been brought so late in the day," said Justice Ramesh.

"Accordingly, insofar as the proposed amendments seek to introduce new causes of action in (AHTC's suit), they ought not to be allowed."

READ: AHTC lawsuit: WP leaders object to plaintiff's bid to add new claims, question timing and legal issues

The amendments that Justice Ramesh rejected include a statement that Mr Singh, Mr Chua and Mr Foo breached their duty of care and skill as fiduciaries and or duties of care and skill to AHTC.

The judge also rejected an amendment that states the defendants "had the means of knowledge of and knew or ought to have known" about certain facts by virtue of their position as elected or appointed members of AHTC, which would "have awakened suspicion and put a prudent man on his guard".

This rejected amendment also stated that the defendants failed to enquire into the facts and or circumstances of the matter and inform AHTC about it or rectify the flaws in the payment system.

However, he allowed some amendments to be made in AHTC's claims, including a line about when AHTC entered into a contract with FMSS without inviting any tenders and who had proposed this, and a line about Ms How and her husband breaching their duties of care and skill as fiduciaries and to AHTC.

Justice Ramesh instructed parties to file submissions on costs. The defendants are set to appeal against the October verdict finding them liable, but this has been adjourned several times this year and will take place at a later date.

Source: CNA/ll(ac)
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