Singapore—On Friday, November 29 Judicial Commissioner Mavis Chionh ruled that a disputed property worth over S$8 million belonged to one man, Neo Aik Soo, and not to his elder brother and younger sister, who also claimed rights to the property.

Mr Neo, the second oldest of a brood of 12 brothers and sisters, had somewhat acted as the head of the family, financially providing for his siblings whenever they needed it after their father died in 1974.

He worked as a broker and had also bought properties as investments, including one shophouse in Keong Saik Road. This particular property had been purchased in 1991 for only S$370,000. Mr Neo sold it in 2017 for about S$8.1 million.

However, Mr Neo’s older brother, Mr Neo Aik Siong, and younger sister, Ms Neo Geek Kuan, claim part ownership of this property, since they say it had been purchased with funds belonging to the family, the Straits Times (ST) says.

But Mr Neo said that he had used his own money to buy the shophouse, which made him the property’s beneficial owner. Thus, proceeds from the sale of the property are rightfully his.

But the younger sister and older brother of Mr Neo also claimed that Ms Neo had been coerced into affixing her signature to documents that would authorise the younger Mr Neo to sell the property. The property had been registered in Ms Neo’s name.

The disagreement between the brothers and sister, all of whom are past the age of 70, grew so sharp that they took it to court.

According to Judicial Commissioner Chionh’s ruling, Ms Neo had signed the documents of her own volition and that the funds used to buy the property had been the younger Mr Neo’s alone.

The court documents show that Neo Aik Soo became wealthy by servicing “high net-worth individuals and companies” as a broker. He had also won the lottery in 1973, and made several wise investments, including buying properties in Oxley Road.

He had also been generous with his money, paying for the education abroad of one niece, as well as for the refurbishment of another sibling’s apartment.

As for the shophouse in Keong Saik Road, Mr Neo had put the property in his sister’s name when buying it in 1991 since he desired to “shield” some of the assets from potential creditors, in the event that his work as a broker would go and he would be exposed to personal liability.

But in December 16, his sister signed a document that recognized Neo Aik Soo as the property’s beneficial owner, as well as gave him the power of attorney to sell the property and receive proceeds from the sale.

It was brought by He Yi Investments in May 2017, and at that point, neither Neo Aik Soo’s brother or sister objected to the transaction, which is why he was shocked when he was presented a Deed of Revocation of the Power of Attorney on June 20, 2017, by his sister, as the siblings were now claiming ownership over the property.

The Judicial Commissioner rejected Ms Neo’s and the older Mr Neo’s claims, finding that the older brother “was making up his evidence as he went along,” and ordered that the proceeds from the sale be released to Neo Aik Soo, with interest.

Neo Aik Soo’s siblings have since appealed the Judicial Commissioner’s ruling. -/TISG