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Bank did not act in good faith, says QC for Mrs Tang


Straits Times April 15, 1999
By ELENA CHONG

Tang Liang Hong wife's appeal

RELATED: Tang issues statement
Mareva order against Tang's wife 'justified

A QUEEN'S Counsel submitted yesterday that the Oversea-Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBCBank) had acted unfairly towards the wife of lawyer Tang Liang Hong.

The bank had wantonly disregarded or sacrificed the interests of Madam Teo Siew Har as a mortgagor, by failing to exercise its power to sell her property promptly, QC Leolin Price said in the Court of Appeal.

Madam Teo, wife of Mr Tang, the opposition candidate who is now in Australia, was appealing against Justice Chao Hick Tin's order dismissing her appeal against an earlier judgment granted to OCBCBank, involving $3.5 million plus interest in a mortgage action.

OCBCBank had demanded that she give up her Hua Guan Avenue bungalow within a month from Sept 27, 1997, for failing to repay $3.4 million. She had mortgaged the house to the bank in 1993 for $3.2 million.

In June last year, the Deputy Registrar granted judgment of $3.6 million, plus interest accruing from March 1 that year, to OCBCBank.

Madam Teo appealed and lost when the case was heard in chambers last August. Her house, which was once worth about $4.7 million, was sold for $2.97 million at an auction last week.

Yesterday, Mr Price said the only issue was whether the bank was in breach of good faith when it refused or failed to sell Madam Teo's house earlier, thus sacrificing her interest and causing her loss.

Her case was that from January 1997, she had wanted to sell the house to pay off the outstanding overdraft and stop interest from accumulating. But she could not sell it because of a Mareva injunction against her, whereas the bank could, Mr Price pointed out.

The bank had thus failed to protect her interest in the property by failing to "exercise its power of sale" at the time, she had said.

Mr Price urged the court yesterday to allow the appeal. The decision, he said, will be a landmark case in the law of mortgages.

Senior Counsel Woo Bih Li, for OCBCBank, said Madam Teo had made it impossible for the bank to sell the house. And at no time did she or her daughter tell the bank that it must sell the property because of the forseeable drastic decline in property prices, he added.

The Court of Appeal reserved judgment.

Published in the Straits Times. April 23, 1999

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