(Oct 2): The feud in the Lim family, which controls the Genting gaming empire, has taken a new turn with the filing of a new suit. In the latest suit, filed in June, Benjamin Lim Keong Hoe is seeking to rescind or set aside a power of attorney purportedly given to his uncles — Lim Kok Thay and Lim Chee Wah — by his grandmother, the late Lee Kim Hua @ Lee Ah Sang, conferring wide powers on them.
Kok Thay, Chee Wah and Lee are the first, second and third defendants in the case.
Lee, who died in August, was the widow of gaming mogul Lim Goh Tong, who died in 2007.
Keong Hoe is the second son of the late Lim Tee Keong, Goh Tong’s eldest son, who died a bankrupt on April 14, 2014.
An associate of Kok Thay says he is out of the country and thus, could not comment on the new suit.
It is noteworthy that there are existing cases in court involving the same parties. Keong Hoe’s brother Joey Lim Keong Yew and sister Marie Lim Seok Leng are taking their uncles to court over issues with their father’s will and them being left out of their grandfather’s trust.
According to court documents viewed by The Edge, Lee is understood to have given power of attorney over her affairs to Kok Thay and Chee Wah on Sept 11, 2012, about two years after she suffered a stroke.
Interestingly, the power of attorney is irrevocable, applies worldwide and gives Kok Thay and Chee Wah wide-ranging powers over her assets.
Keong Hoe contends that the authenticity of the general power of attorney is doubtful.
“At the time when the general power of attorney is alleged to have been executed, the third defendant was not of sound mind, memory and/or understanding or was otherwise incapable of understanding or appreciating the purport, nature, extent or consequence of the general power of attorney by reason of, inter alia, having suffered a stroke in or about September 2010,” he says in his statement of claim.
Other issues highlighted include the consideration of a mere RM10 ($3.22) for the power of attorney to be granted, which raised eyebrows as the third defendant, Lee, was known to be extremely careful when dealing with her financial affairs, was extremely possessive of her assets and had an extremely thrifty nature, he remarks.
Also questioned was a thumbprint by Lee, who was said to have a handwritten signature with Chinese characters. The use of her thumbprint shows that she was not in a physical or mental state to sign the general power of attorney, says Keong Hoe.
He adds that the thumbprint was a mere smudge, as it was likely that Lee needed physical help to affix it.
However, there are two witnesses to Lee’s acknowledgement via thumbprint — Joseph Lai Khee Sin and Keng Siew Hong.
Keong Hoe contends that Lee was aged and lived with the first defendant, Kok Thay, who had complete control over her.
“In the circumstances, the third defendant (Lee) was extremely vulnerable and subject to domination and control and/or influence by the first and/or second defendant at the time the general power of attorney was purportedly created,” the statement of claim reads.
In a nutshell, the powers conferred on Kok Thay and Chee Wah were so great that “if she was of sound mind, there was no intelligible reason why she would have created the general power of attorney giving such wide powers to the first and second defendants”, Keong Hoe says.
He claims that Kok Thay and Chee Wah, in causing the creation of the general power of attorney, were guilty of “unconscionable dealing” — exploiting a special disability or disadvantage of another to benefit.
According to the statement of claim, Kok Thay and Chee Wah caused the transfer of Lee’s half share in the family residence to Kok Thay on July 31, 2014.
Then, in 2015, the shares in Beaumaris, which held a previous family residence, were transferred from Lee to Chee Wah.
Also, in or around 2015, Lee’s indirect holding in Applewood was transferred to Chee Wah and the Ridgefield Trust, in which he is a beneficiary.
Not stated in the statement of claim is a transaction in July this year in which Malaysian property developer Sunway acquired 4.53 acres of land in the city centre from a private company called LGT, Kok Thay and Lee for RM165 million. Whether this acquisition will be impacted remains to be seen.
Sunway’s announcement merely says that the acquisition is likely to be concluded by the “second half of 2017”.
These assets are worth several hundred million ringgit, which brings into question the RM10 consideration paid by the two sons.
“In this respect, the plaintiff contends that the purported consideration of RM10 was sham or fake consideration designed by the first and second defendants,” the statement of claim reads.
Another word used to describe the RM10 consideration was “disproportionate”.
Lee, it seems, had a second stroke on April 21, causing her to be in a “like comatose status… and in a vegetative state”.
According to Kok Thay’s associate, he will be back in the country late this month, after which any questions pertaining to his late mother’s will can be answered.
Interestingly, the associate says, “Everyone thinks she (Lee) had a huge, substantial stake in Genting… But why is it [that] she is not named as a substantial shareholder then?”
A check on the annual reports of holding company Genting from 1999 indicates that a large amount of the Lim family’s stake is held under Kien Huat Realty, with close to a 40% stake in Genting.
However, not all layers of shareholders after Kien Huat Realty are identified as substantial shareholders.
In Genting’s latest annual report for FY2016, Kok Thay is stated to have 68.12 million shares or a 1.83% stake, but neither he nor Lee is listed as a substantial shareholder.
Checks with the Companies Commission of Malaysia show that Parkview Management is the largest shareholder in Kien Huat Realty with 94.21% equity interest. Kien Huat International has the remaining 5.79%.
Parkview Management’s shareholders are Gerard Lim Ewe Keng — said to be an employee of Genting — with 33.34% as well as Lee and Kok Thay with 16.67% each. Amaline (M), a company controlled by Kok Thay, has 16.67% while company secretary Roselind Niap Kam Lian has 16.67%.
Considering Genting’s market capitalisation of RM37.46 billion, Lee’s 16.67% in Parkview Management is worth billions.
If Genting’s listed subsidiaries — Genting Malaysia, Genting Plantations and Genting Singapore — and other large units, including Genting Energy, are taken into account, her assets are likely to be worth much more.
Jose Barrock is a senior editor at The Edge Malaysia.