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Perennial unit seeking to start conspiracy claim against ex-Sakae director Andy Ong

MAINBOARD-LISTED property and healthcare firm Perennial Real Estate announced on Monday that its 50 per cent joint venture (JV), TYN Investment Group (TYN Group), has applied to the court seeking leave to commence a claim for conspiracy against Griffin Real Estate Investment and former Sakae Holdings director Andy Ong.

The conspiracy claim is in connection with TYN Group’s acquisition of TYN Investment Pte Ltd (TYNI) from ERC Holdings. TYNI owns the House of Tan Yeok Nee, a mansion building at the junction of Penang Road and Clemenceau Avenue gazetted as a national monument.

ERC Holdings was founded by Ong, a former director of TYNI and of Griffin, who was taken to court in August last year for allegedly committing offences involving more than S$20 million. The charges included two counts each of criminal breach of trust and cheating.

ERC Holdings reportedly had an 80 per cent stake in Gryphon Capital Management, which managed Griffin’s real estate investments including commercial property Bugis Cube. Reports also stated that ERC Holdings was the holding company of the ERC group of companies.

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Meanwhile, sushi restaurant chain operator Sakae was a minority shareholder of Griffin. Gryphon Capital Management was also an associate company of Sakae.

Sakae won a lawsuit in 2017 against Ong and his two associates, in which Sakae had alleged that Griffin’s funds were used by the ERC group to finance the purchase of the House of Tan Yeok Nee and Big Hotel in Middle Road. The judge found Ong to be in breach of his fiduciary duties to Sakae and ordered that Griffin be liquidated.

On Monday, Perennial said that TYN Group’s intended conspiracy claim will be made in conjunction with TYNI’s defence of a claim by Griffin last year.

Perennial disclosed last November that TYNI had been served with a writ of summons by Griffin, involving alleged transactions relating to TYNI during the period before TYNI became an associated company of Perennial and was still known as ERC International Pte Ltd.

In December, TYNI filed its defence to Griffin’s claim and also issued third-party notices to commence proceedings against Ong and Sakae founder Douglas Foo, who was also a director of Griffin, in connection with Griffin’s claim.

According to court documents last August, Ong had been accused of siphoning S$8 million from Griffin’s bank account and transferring the sum to his own account in May 2012. He also allegedly illegally transferred a total of S$15.8 million from Griffin’s bank account to those belonging to ERC Unicampus and ERC International – now TYNI – in September 2012.

Besides these, in June 2012, Ong allegedly deceived Sakae into believing that ERC Holdings had validly exercised an option to buy some eight million shares of Griffin.

As a result, Sakae was said to have been duped into handing over S$2.6 million to Griffin.

Last month, the High Court approved the partial return of S$33 million in capital to the contributories of Griffin. Based on Sakae’s shareholding in Griffin, Sakae will receive S$8.1 million in net proceeds.

Perennial said on Monday that both TYN Group and TYNI will continue to pursue their legal remedies in the matter, with regard to its intended conspiracy claim and Griffin’s claim against TYNI.

Perennial holds an indirect interest of 50 per cent in TYN Group, which wholly owns TYNI.

Shares of Perennial were trading flat at S$0.55 as at 9.41am on Monday, after the announcement.