Singapore court rules in favour of high roller who allegedly owes Star $43m

By Charlotte Lee Updated
Queensland casinos probe commences

A Singaporean casino high roller won’t be required to pay an alleged A$43 million debt owed to Australia’s Star Casino after being let off by a local court.

The Straits Times reports that despite the Singaporean court sparing the gambler, he has failed in his appeal in a Brisbane court to stop the casino from suing him in Australia.

A panel of three judges in the Queensland Court of Appeal said Dr Wong Yew Choy, who incurred baccarat gambling losses at The Star Gold Coast in 2018, should not have assumed his dispute with the casino had ended once the court case in Singapore was dismissed.

“The judgment in the Singapore proceeding made it clear that it was only by the procedural defence, available to Dr Wong in that forum, that the case was dismissed,” wrote Judge of Appeal Philip McMurdo last month on behalf of the appeal court.

The Star Entertainment had sued Dr Wong in the Singapore High Court in February 2019 for purported losses at the casino in Queensland between July 26 and August 2, 2018.

Star seeks to recover $43m after baccarat session

The Star sought to recover A$43,209,853.22, which is the value of a dishonoured cheque he had signed that breached a cheque cashing facility agreement inked with him.

In the Singapore International Commercial Court decision grounds issued in 2020, International Judge Jeremy Cooke had held that The Star’s claim fell foul of Section 5(2) of the Civil Law Act, citing a previous Court of Appeal decision.

The section prohibits the recovery of gaming debts, subject to certain exceptions.

Court documents said that a year earlier in 2017, Dr Wong had travelled to Australia and gambled at a Sydney casino operated by a company related to The Star.

On that trip, he signed a blank cheque, but left it undated as well as the payee and the amount blank.

High roller provided casino with “replacement cheque”

In a deal he made with The Star in 2018, it was agreed that if Dr Wong provided “a replacement cheque” to The Star with the amount and date left blank, The Star was authorised to complete that cheque with an amount equal to what was outstanding and to date the cheque.

Based on that provision, The Star filled out the cheque, inserting the amount of S$45,145,654.64, the date of September 7, 2018 and its name as the payee.

The Star deposited the cheque into its account with the National Australia Bank, but by then Dr Wong had taken action, which resulted in the cheque being dishonoured, according to court documents.

In the current lawsuit, which commenced in 2020, The Star claimed A$43,209,853.22 as damages for breach of the facility agreement.

Dr Wong, a Singaporean, applied but failed to have the lawsuit dismissed or obtain a stay on it by a Brisbane judge.

He then took his case to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed his case with costs.

The court said last month in its judgment: “What is clear is that The Star has endeavoured throughout to prosecute its claim to a determination on the merits.

“In hindsight, the Singapore proceeding could be said to have caused an unfortunate delay in the ultimate resolution of this dispute.”

But such a criticism about delay was not sufficient evidence to say that The Star’s conduct in filing this lawsuit in Queensland “would serve to bring the administration of justice into disrepute,” said the court.

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