KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 14 — Three grandchildren of Genting Group founder, the late Tan Sri Lim Goh Tong, have sued two of their uncles — Genting chairman and chief executive Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay and Datuk Lim Chee Wah — over their alleged removal as beneficiaries of a family trust that their grandfather had created for their father.
Joey Lim Keong Yew, his brother Benjamin Lim Keong Hoe and sister Marie Lim Seok Leng are the children of Goh Tong’s eldest son, Tee Keong, who died from cancer in 2014.
According to a Sunday Times report, in early 2003, Tee Keong was declared bankrupt from his failure to repay more than RM200 million of debts which forced the late Genting tycoon to restructure the family inheritance.
The trusts for each of Goh Tong’s children and their families were controlled separately, according to court documents reviewed by The Sunday Times, and the control of Tee Keong Family Trust was allegedly transferred to the latter’s sons Kok Thay and Chee Wah after Tee Keong’s bankruptcy.
After Tee Keong’s 2014 death, his children allegedly discovered, according to court documents cited by The Sunday Times, that they had been struck off the family trust and excluded from any family inheritance from a will their father allegedly executed a month prior to his passing.
“My grandfather was illiterate, but he thought about everything.
“That he would want to have a legacy that would not include all of his family members is unthinkable,” Keong Yew, 39, reportedly told The Sunday Times.
According to court documents cited by the Singaporean paper, the will named Kok Thay and Chee Wah as sole trustees and also assigned a collective 20 per cent interest to Keong Yew and Keong Hoe’s mother, Agnes Tan Bee Gaik, and their sister Seok Leng.
The remaining 80 per cent was left to the son and daughter Tee Keong fathered with his mistress.
Keong Yew and Keong Hoe claimed that the will was executed under “suspicious circumstances” and want the courts to invalidate it, insisting that the will was executed without their late father’s knowledge because of the advanced stage of his illness.
Kok Thay and Chee Wah have reportedly rejected the allegations and insisted in court affidavits that the claims made by the nephews were “highly irresponsible accusations”.
The Sunday Times reported that the High Court and Court of Appeal have ruled in Tee Keong’s children’s favour in the case of their removal as beneficiaries of their family trust and an application for leave to appeal to the Federal Court is now pending.
According to the paper, the suit filed by Keong Hoe and Seok Leong is against Infoline — the trustee of the family trust where their uncle Chee Wah is a director.
It was not known how the Genting patriarch, whose empire has been raking in millions in the casino-based entertainment industry since 1971, divided his family inheritance among the trust entities.
There are other legal battles that surround the Lim family, including challenges to the validity of a thumb-printed power of attorney (POA) that the late matriarch of the Genting clan, Puan Sri Lee Kim Hua, is claimed to have authorised for a token sum of RM10.
Keong Hoe claimed that the POA is doubtful as his grandmother had suffered a stroke and it does not bear her signature but a thumbprint.
He also claimed that the POA was created by his uncles to possess control and custody over the Tee Keong Family Trust.
Goh Tong’s third daughter Siew Kim also sued her brother Kok Thay and Genting family holding company Kiet Huat Realty over the ownership of 796,250 Genting shares, which she maintained were gifted to her by her father.
Kok Thay counter-sued her for RM32 million (S$10.6 million) that he claimed was owed to him.
The Genting empire is a classic Malaysian corporate rags-to-riches story.
Goh Tong left Fujian province in 1937 at 19 to find work in Malaysia and was soon trading second-hand heavy machinery in the construction sector, which helped him secure the seed capital for his big gamble.
In the 1960s, he convinced the Malaysian government to award him rights to build a hilltop resort and a casino to attract locals and foreign tourists.
Now, the Genting Group has a combined market capitalisation of more than RM135 billion (SG$45 billion) and has forged collaborations with brand names such as Universal Studios, Twentieth Century Fox and Hard Rock Cafe.
Lim’s family is estimated to control close to 45 per cent of the group.