A married Chinese businessman who bought his ex-mistress an apartment at The Interlace and a Mercedes Benz has succeeded in getting back about US$9.4 million (S$12.6 million) from her.
However, the High Court dismissed the man's — Xu Zhigang — claims to the apartment and car, as Justice Audrey Lim found that they were given as gifts.
Met on a flight in 2011
According to the written judgement by Lim seen by Mothership, Xu and Wang Fang first met on a flight in 2011, where Wang was working as a flight attendant.
They met again in Sep. 2013 and began communicating more frequently. They began a romantic, extra-marital relationship in Feb. 2014, which lasted until Nov. 2017.
Even prior to their romantic relationship, Xu gave Wang "many substantial gifts and benefits", including a S$1,000 handphone, a jade bangle worth at least RMB500,000 (S$102,215.50) on her birthday in Dec. 2013, and a UOB ATM card which was linked to his bank account where his salary of S$20,000 per month was deposited into.
He also paid for her flights to Shenzhen and Xiamen, and the hotel room, when they visited Wang's parents during Chinese New Year in 2014.
Around Oct. or Nov. 2013, Xu also got Wang — who was working at United Overseas Bank (UOB) at the time — a job at the company of which he was the main shareholder, Eastport Petrochemical (Singapore).
She was employed at Eastport until June 2016, and was paid S$10,000 a month without doing any substantive work.
Bought an apartment at The Interlace and a Mercedes Benz
Between Dec. 2013 and Feb. 2014, Xu transferred Wang a total of about S$4,198,000.
In Dec. 2013, Wang and Xu went to go look at apartments at The Interlace together. Wang used the money Xu had transferred to her to buy one of the apartments that they saw, and it was registered with her name.
On the same day, Xu and Wang went to a car showroom near The Interlace to look for a car, but the model was not available. Wang bought the Mercedes Benz on Jan. 14, using the money given to her by Xu, after she saw the carat the showroom and Xu told her to buy it.
The car was also registered in Wang's name.
Xu: the car and house were never meant to be gifts
Xu claimed that he had bought the car and house for himself, and that he never intended to give them to Wang
He said that he bought the apartment for Wang to stay in "to improve her living conditions" because he regarded her as a close friend and sibling.
He also said that he wanted his own place to stay whenever he was in Singapore.
Xu claimed that he did not tell Wang that the flat was her birthday gift, as it was purchased prior to the beginning of their romantic relationship and he did not know when her birthday was.
Similarly, Xu argued that he decided to purchase a car because Eastport did not have a company car, and he needed a car to meet customers when he was in Singapore.
He claimed that he allowed Wang to drive the car, but did not tell her that he was buying it for her.
He said that he asked Wang to register both the apartment and car in her name out of convenience, as she lived in Singapore and he wanted her to help him handle the administrative matters concerning their purchase, renovation, and fitting.
Wang: the apartment and car were given as gifts
On the other hand, Wang claimed that the apartment and car were gifts to her from Xu.
She claimed that Xu had asked her in early Dec. 2013 when her birthday was.
When she told him that it was on Dec. 10, Xu said that he would visit her on that day, and asked her to arrange to view properties together and said that he would buy her a property for her birthday.
After viewing the apartment at The Interlace, Wang claimed that she said she liked it and Xu said that he would buy it for her as a birthday gift.
She claimed that, similarly, Xu said that he would buy a car for Wang, and that he told her to buy it in Jan. 2014 when she saw it at the showroom.
Lim: Xu had intended apartment and car as gifts
Lim found Xu's explanation unconvincing, and thus concluded that Xu had indeed intended to give the apartment to Wang as a birthday present, and had also bought the car for her.
Lim found it "hard to comprehend" why he allowed the apartment to be registered in Wang's name if he did not intend to give it to her, as he could have appointed an agent or Eastport's general manager to help with the administrative matters of the apartment.
She also pointed out that, despite claiming that he needed the car to meet customers and for business, Xu never drove the car for business purposes, and that Eastport even purchased a company car a few months after the Mercedes Benz was purchased in Wang's name.
Xu also admitted that during various quarrels with Wang, he had told her that the apartment and car belonged to her.
Lim also noted that a number of Wang's journal entries support that the apartment and car were gifts to her.
For example, on Dec. 23, she wrote, "I have got a house and a car" and "A man buys a house and a car for you unconditionally within 3 months. This kind of thing only happens if the two get married on the spur of the moment. But his man ... is now acting like a loved one."
US$9.6 million transferred to Wang
While Lim found that Xu's claim to the car and apartment to be unconvincing, she ruled in favour of him receiving about US$9.4 million (S$12.6 million) back from Wang, which had been transferred to her in two USD sums.
Around Jul. 2, 2014, the first sum of US$2.6 million (S$3.49 million) belonging to Xu was transferred to Wang.
Xu claimed that the first sum was transferred to Wang as part of a share transfer plan when his Chinese companies ran into financial difficulties in May or June 2014.
Wang claimed that the sum was a gift to her from Xu, after she found out that he had lied about his marital status and admitted that he was still married.
Wang wanted to end the relationship, and said that Xu said that he would give her the sum of money in order to "show his sincerity and gratitude for staying with him and to provide her a sense of security".
Lim found that there was insufficient evidence to show that Xu had lied to Wang about his marital status or that he had, for this reason, promised to give her the money from Eastport.
She also noted that there was a "notable omission" in Wang's journal entries, as she did not write down that she had been angry with him when she allegedly found out about his marital status, or mentioned that he had lied about his marital status.
In Jan. 2015, Xu was supposed to receive funds from Eastport. He gave instructions for the funds to be transferred to his chauffeur and assistant, of which US$9 million (S$12.1 million) was transferred to one of Xu's employees.
Xu's employee then, on Xu's instruction, transferred US$7 million (S$9.4 million) to Wang around Feb. 4, 2015.
Xu claimed that he had told Wang that the money was for temporary safekeeping, and that it was for him to restart his business.
Wang claimed that Xu said that the money was for her, and that she was free to spend it as she wished.
As a result, she said, she had spent some of it to purchase a piano for about S$20,000, as well as a membership at the Sentosa Golf Club for about S$280,000.
She also claimed that she had stayed in the relationship and did not pursue a career or further her education because she thought the money was for her, and thus she is now "significantly disadvantaged in this regard".
Lim stated that even before the first sum of USD was transferred to Wang, she had "been content to live off Xu", and that her journal entries and chats with Xu showed that she was more interested in pursuing her passion and hobbies rather than any career or education.
However, Lim did find that Xu had not objected to Wang using the money to purchase the piano and golf club membership when she discussed her plans to make the purchases, and even told her to "carry on" to buy the piano.
Lim: apartment and car were gifts, but USD sums were not
Lim ultimately ruled that Xu had intended the apartment and car to be gifts to Wang, but not the two sums of money.
She noted that when Xu gifted the apartment and car to Wang, there was no evidence that his business in China was facing financial difficulties.
However, by the time the two sums of USD were transferred to Wang, Xu's business in China was facing serious financial problems.
Therefore, Lim concluded, it was "unlikely" that he intended to gift the "substantial amount" of US$9.6 million (S$12.9 million) to Wang. Instead, it was "more likely" that he intended to have her help him hold it for the future.
Thus, Lim dismissed Xu's claims to the apartment and car, but allowed Xu's claims to the money transferred to Wang, after deducting S$220,000 which Wang had spent on the piano and club membership with Wang's knowledge.
Totally unrelated but follow and listen to our podcast here
Top photo via Shamasen via Wikimedia Commons and Matthias Ang.