The case of the missing diamonds and diamond seeds
In a twin-judgment released by Justice Hri Kumar Nair, the Setia Team led by Wern-Jhien Yam (Director) and assisted by Bethel Chan (Associate Director) and Stanley Tan (Associate), successfully secured judgment against an ex-director for misappropriation of diamonds and diamond seeds, as well as a rare order expunging irrelevant, unreliable, and scandalous material adduced by the Defendant in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the Claimant and its representatives.
These judgments shed light on the law governing summary judgment and expunging applications under the new Rules of Court 2021.
In Asian Eco Technology Pte Ltd v Deng Yiming  SGHC 227, the Court granted judgment against the ex-director, after carefully considering evidence of the misappropriation of 627 diamond seeds and 7 loose diamonds presented by the claimant.
The Court found that the ex-director’s failure to engage with the material evidence presented by the claimant led to the irresistible inference of liability on his part. It was not sufficient for him to rely on bare denials, without also engaging with the material evidence presented.
Justice Nair held:
“18. … These omissions were all the more glaring given that as the sole director and majority owner of XDC, Deng would have been in a position to explain these matters. Thus, Deng’s refusal to engage the material facts led to the irresistible inference that he had no alternative explanation and could not rebut AET’s case.”
In Asian Eco Technology Pte Ltd v Deng Yiming  SGHC 260, the Court issued a rare order expunging various materials adduced by the Defendant in alleged support of his Defence on the grounds that they were irrelevant, scandalous and adduced for a collateral purpose, and ordered indemnity costs against the Defendant.
In coming to his decision, Justice Nair conducted an insightful analysis of the new expunging provisions under the new Rules of Court 2021 and observed that although they were expressed in broader terms than those in the old Rules of Court 2014, an overly liberal interpretation should not be adopted as it may invite a deluge of striking out applications which would run contrary to the ideals under Order 3 rule 1 of the Rules of Court 2021 of fairness, efficiency, and practicality.
Justice Nair thereafter held that the Court should only allow the striking out or expunging of irrelevant material when doing so would serve a broader purpose (e.g. removing scandalous allegations and preventing collateral attacks) as was the case here.
Justice Nair held:
“20. To give effect to the Ideals in the context of striking out applications, the court should only allow striking out or expunging of irrelevant material where doing so would serve a broader purpose. Examples include removing scandalous allegations, substantially reducing the time and costs of trial or further proceedings, or preventing collateral attacks on the parties or their witnesses. This approach would best balance and effectuate the Ideals of fairness, efficiency, and practicality. If irrelevancy were the only criteria, parties might be encouraged to engage in satellite litigation over any material alleged to be irrelevant on matters peripheral to the case. That would cause delays in court proceedings, inefficiency in the use of court resources and an increase in costs, which would be contrary to the Ideals.”
Setia’s Yam Wern-Jhien (Director), Bethel Chan (Associate Director) and Stanley Tan (Associate) acted for the claimant.