THE long-running Genting family feud has taken another twist with at least one member being charged by the police, and allegations that signatures on at least two wills are fraudulent.
“It’s getting bitter and acrimonious,” says a party involved in the feud who has intimate knowledge of what is going on.
Of the two warring factions, one comprises Joey Lim Keong Yew, Benjamin Lim Keong Hoe and Marie Lim Seok Leng. They are the children of the late Datuk Lim Tee Keong , who was the eldest son of the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong — the patriarch of the Genting group who died in October 2007.
In the opposing faction are Genting chairman and chief executive Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, his younger brother Datuk Lim Chee Wah and related parties.
Goh Tong and his wife Puan Sri Lee Kim Hwa @ Lee Ah Sang, who died in August 2017, had six children — daughters Lim Siew Lay, Lim Siew Lian and Lim Siew Kim and sons Tee Keong, Kok Thay and Chee Wah.
Initially, two main issues were contested in the family feud. The first was the will of Tee Keong, who was a bankrupt when he died in April 2014, and the second was the removal of Keong Hoe and Seok Leng from the Tee Keong family trust set up by Goh Tong in 1990.
Keong Hoe charged by police
It is noteworthy that Keong Yew controls 28.1% of Australia-listed casino operator Donaco International Ltd and has an additional 13.03% stake in it, held jointly with Keong Hoe. Donaco owns the Star Vegas Resort and Club, which is a casino in Poipet, Cambodia, and The Aristo International Hotel that is also a casino in Lao Cai, Vietnam.
Early this month, the 37-year-old Keong Hoe was picked up and charged by the police under Section 182 of the Penal Code — in a nutshell, for allegedly making a false police report.
Keong Hoe had made a police report after The Edge published an article entitled “New twist to Genting family feud” in June 2017. The article talked about an affidavit submitted by Kok Thay on May 4, 2017, questioning the shareholding of Donaco.
The article also highlighted that Kok Thay had brought to light several documents, one being a letter of undertaking dated November 2012 that was signed by Keong Yew and which stated that he was willing to transfer his shareholding in Slim Twinkle Ltd, which controlled Donaco, to Tee Keong after Dec 19, 2012, after the reverse takeover of Australia-listed company Two Way Ltd. A similar letter of undertaking was signed by Keong Hoe.
There were also two undated share transfer forms, each transferring 50 shares from Slim Twinkle to Tee Keong, one signed by Keong Yew and the other by Keong Hoe.
Kok Thay’s affidavit was submitted in bankruptcy case, Tee Keong ex-parte HLG Securities Sdn Bhd, where TA Securities Holdings and TA Centre, both wholly-owned subsidiaries of publicly traded stockbroking outfit TA Enterprise Holdings Bhd, wanted to obtain a court order under Section 31 of the Bankruptcy Act 1967 to query several individuals to ascertain whether there existed any assets owned by Tee Keong from which to recover sums owed.
The list of individuals who were sought in court included Kok Thay, Chee Wah, Tee Keong’s wife, Datin Agnes Tan Bee Gaik, and Joanne Fok Chan Kok, with whom Tee Keong had two children — Kenneth Lim Keong Wye and Katherine Lim Seok Yan.
In his police report, Keong Hoe said his signature and his brother’s on the share transfer forms were forged, and that they did not recall signing any undated share transfer forms.
In an email response to questions about his arrest, Keong Hoe says, “There is a dispute as to whether I have executed a share transfer form. I take the position that I do not recall signing any such share transfer form and lodged a police report when that share transfer form was allegedly executed by me, and surfaced against me.
“Sometime later, a police report was lodged against me, contending that my initial police report was false. I was arrested, charged for allegedly lodging a false report and subsequently released on bail after I pleaded not guilty. I maintain that I never signed that share transfer form and I have taken legal advice on this matter.”
Other than the signed share transfer forms, Kok Thay also added that he spoke to one Lim Lian Huat (not a relation), a trusted employee of Goh Tong, who shared a letter from the patriarch to him dated Aug 15, 2002. Another letter was also given to Tee Keong through Lian Huat, indicating that Goh Tong had funded the Aristo International Hotel in Lao Cai, on the border between China and Vietnam, in 2002, and had directed that 51% of the shares in a company called Donaco Singapore Pte Ltd should be held by Tee Keong’s family and the remaining 49% by Tee Keong himself.
In his second letter, Goh Tong asked Tee Keong to cooperate with Lian Huat and two other individuals — Ong Chong Hock and See Kim Cheong — who had been tasked with restructuring Donaco’s shareholding.
Kok Thay said his nephews opposed the grant of probate for Tee Keong’s estate. A grant of probate authorises an executor to manage the estate of a deceased person, in this case Tee Keong.
Tee Keong was declared a bankrupt around 2003 but died before the bankruptcy was lifted. He owed as much as RM146.62 million to 13 creditors, including TA.
Court documents reveal that the faction linked to Keong Yew, Keong Hoe and Seok Leng have alleged forgery in at least two wills — that of their father and of their grandmother Lee.
Last week, the three siblings filed a lawsuit against the executors of Lee’s will, namely Kok Thay, Chee Wah, lawyer Lai Khee Sin @ Joseph Lai and another individual, Tew Eng Seong, alleging that Lee’s purported signature was a forgery.
“As a result, the Last Will (of Lee) is invalid,” the court documents read.
To cut a long story short, the documents say Lee could not have gripped a pen to sign the will in Chinese characters as she had a spinal injury. Hence the plaintiffs’ bid to set aside her will.
Lee held a 16.67% stake in Parkview Management Sdn Bhd, which in turn owned 94.21% of Kien Huat Realty, the flagship company of Goh Tong that holds a 38.57% stake in Genting Bhd.
Considering Genting’s market capitalisation of about RM26 billion, Lee’s 16.67% stake is worth billions.
Genting controls several choice assets in Singapore, Hong Kong, Europe and the US, and the listed companies it controls include Genting Malaysia Bhd and Genting Plantations Bhd, which are listed in Malaysia; Genting Singapore Ltd, which is publicly traded in the city state; and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, which is listed in Hong Kong.
Coming back to the wills, Keong Yew and Keong Hoe, citing signature experts, contend that Tee Keong’s signature on his will was also forged.
To recap, Tee Keong’s will is being contested because Keong Yew and Keong Hoe have not been named beneficiaries. Their mother, Tan, is getting 10% of the estate and their sister Seok Leng another 10%, but the bulk of it has been left to Tee Keong’s children with Fok — son Keong Wye is getting 60% and daughter Seok Yan, 20%.
This is likely why the two brothers opposed the grant for probate by Kok Thay.
Tee Keong’s will was signed on March 11, 2014, about a month before he died of cancer.
“The purported signature of the deceased was executed in a vigorous manner and was written with much speed and fluency, making it too perfect for a signature of the deceased in his condition … The deceased’s signature was a simulated signature, forged by person(s) currently unknown,” court documents viewed by The Edge say.
The Tee Keong family trust
Keong Yew, Keong Hoe and related parties were bent on finding out what their grandfather left them and their offspring in the Tee Keong family trust.
In this case, the plaintiffs — Keong Hoe and Seok Leng — contend that their removal as beneficiaries was wrongful and unlawful, and have sought to inspect the trust deed, which was opposed by Infoline Sdn Bhd, the manager of the trust.
Goh Tong had set up the Tee Keong family trust under a trust deed between an individual Quah Chek Tin and Infoline, holding one portion of three of Goh Tong’s Malaysian Residual Assets.
Keong Hoe and Seok Leng contend that the Tee Keong family trust was created and established for the benefit of Tee Keong, his family members, including the plaintiffs, as well as his descendants.
In July 2014, Keong Hoe wrote to the trustees to obtain a copy of the trust deed to ascertain his and his children’s rights and entitlements, but on Aug 19 the same year, the trustee replied stating that he had been removed as a beneficiary of the trust.
Keong Hoe was never informed of the removal and via an email dated Oct 3, 2014, he objected to the removal and demanded a copy of the trust deed. When he did not receive any response, he commenced legal proceedings.
It seems Keong Hoe only found out in January 2015 that his removal as a beneficiary of the family trust was with effect from March 18, 2014, just a month before Tee Keong died.
In December 2015, Seok Leng wrote to the trustee to obtain a copy of the trust accounts to ascertain her and her children’s rights and entitlements under the family trust. When the trustee did not respond, she wrote in again, giving Jan 18, 2016, five days after her request, as the deadline for a reply. The trustee’s silence resulted in Seok Leng commencing legal action.
In the course of the proceedings, she discovered that she too had been removed as a beneficiary of the family trust.
Infoline’s directors are Chee Wah and Yap Chong Chew, and its shareholding is split equally between Chee Wah, Genting employee Gerard Lim and company secretary Roselind Niap Kam Lian.
In its statement of defence, Infoline said Yap, in a letter dated Aug 19, 2014, had informed Keong Hoe that he was no longer a beneficiary of the discretionary trust after the defendant exercised a discretion on March 18, 2014.
Basically, Infoline did not respond to Keong Hoe as “the defendant is not obliged under the discretionary trust deed” to provide a copy of it.
Infoline also said it had no obligation under the discretionary trust to inform Seok Leng of her removal as a beneficiary.
The Edge understands that at Federal Court level, Keong Hoe and Seok Leng were allowed to inspect and make a copy of the trust deed dated May 18, 1990, with the schedules and annexure pertaining to the Tee Keong family trust but they are not allowed to disclose its contents.
While Keong Yew’s faction may have won the battle to inspect the contents of the family trust, the contest for their share of Genting’s strategic assets appears far from over.