Straits Times: Mon, Feb 13
THE widow of an assassinated Pakistani governor has won a court battle over his $16 million bungalow in Sentosa Cove.
Mrs Aamna Taseer had sued her husband's three children from a previous marriage after they tried to stop her selling the house.
Last week, the High Court agreed that the trio had no rights to the property.
The widow was registered as joint tenant of the bungalow, which she bought in 2008 with her husband, Mr Salman Taseer. So when the 66-year-old Punjab governor was gunned down by a bodyguard in Islamabad last year, she appeared to be in line to inherit the property.
However, his three grown-up children lodged a caveat, which meant they wanted a say in how the house was sold or disposed of.
Mr Shaan Taseer, Ms Sanam Taseer and Ms Sara Taseer Shoaib argued that it was bought solely with their father's money, and that he had given instructions for it to be sold by his property agent just three months before he was killed.
They also claimed that although Mrs Taseer was the joint tenant, she was actually only holding the property in trust for her husband.
All three have signed sworn affidavits stating that Mr Taseer never gave her anything of value during their marriage, and that the couple did not love one another.
The defendants had also obtained a Pakistani court order to stop the widow from disposing of his assets until further orders, said their lawyer Sim Bock Eng.
But Justice Choo Han Teck pointed out that this order did not apply in Singapore. He added that he was not convinced by the children's claims about the couple's marriage as they had not been tested in a trial.
The judge ordered the caveat to be removed, which will allow the widow to dispose of the property as she sees fit.
Mr Taseer's killing is believed to have been linked to his support for a Christian woman sentenced to death under Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws.
He is understood to have been part of one of South Asia's richest families, with interests in textiles, media and brokerage firms.
A Sunni Muslim, he divorced his first wife in 1983. His three children claiming a stake in the bungalow are from that marriage.
One of them, 42-year-old Ms Taseer Shoaib, is a jewellery designer who lives in Singapore with her husband and two children.
The governor died without a will, and had not appointed anyone to look after his estate.
Since the three children were neither administrators nor executors, they were not entitled to place a caveat, argued the widow's lawyer Daniel Chia of Stamford Law.
This is because caveats can be placed only by people with a direct interest in the property.
The trio are fighting over their father's overall estate in the Pakistani courts, and have already been awarded a 40 per cent share.
But Justice Choo said in his judgment grounds that although they are entitled to a share in his assets as a whole, they have no claim on any specific individual property.
'That is a different proposition altogether,' he added.
This is understood to be the first time a Singapore court has ruled that the amount a beneficiary receives from a dead person's estate should be calculated according to the value of the estate as a whole, and not the property which forms part of it.
It means that beneficiaries in similar circumstances cannot lodge caveats unless they are administrators or executors linked to the property.
Justice Choo said in his judgment grounds that although the claimants are entitled to a share in his assets as a whole, they have no claim on any specific individual property.
Source: The Straits Times