Thai loses suit to regain land


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 28 Aug 2004

PUTRAJAYA: Kobchai Sosothikul comes from a well-to-do Thai family. In 1967, his late father, a prominent businessman, bought two pieces of land in Penang and gave them as a gift to his wife, Boonsom Boonyanit. 

The family lived in Thailand and did not think much of their property at Tanjung Bungah until one day in June 1989 when Boonsom found out that the two pieces of land had been sold off – for RM1.86mil – without her knowledge to a company named Adorna Properties Sdn Bhd. 

The two properties were said to be worth about RM12mil now.  

Kobchai’s mother has since died after a losing battle to regain possession of the land. 

Yesterday, he also lost the battle to wrest back the properties after the Federal Court rejected his application for a review, stating that the consequence of the court’s judgment, though harsh, served no grave injustice. 

Since the dispute started, his family had maintained that the title deeds of the land had never left them. 

Boonsom had claimed that she had been paying quit rent and other dues on the land, as the properties had been in her possession at all times. 

After some investigations, it was found that prior to June 1989 someone had posed as a “Mrs Boonsom” and had reported to the land office that she was the owner of the land.  

She also claimed she had lost the original title deeds and new title deeds were issued to her.  

She then sold off the two pieces of land to the company. 

Boonsom filed a suit in the Penang High Court in 1989 against Adorna Properties to wrest back ownership of the land. 

She said the sale of the land was null and void as it was based on forged documents.  

She lost on the grounds that the company had bought the properties in good faith. 

Boonsom appealed against the decision and the Court of Appeal ruled in her favour. 

It was a short-lived victory.  

Adorna Properties pursued the matter in the Federal Court and on Dec 22, 2000, the apex court handed down a landmark judgment stating that the company had right of ownership of the pieces of land because it was a bona fide buyer. 

The broken-hearted Boonsom, died of a heart attack soon after the decision and Kobchai, a businessman, took over the legal fight.  

He fought for the apex court’s decision to be reviewed and again, the family’s hopes were dashed.  

Federal Court judge Justice P.S. Gill said: “There must be finality to litigations. Otherwise, it will lead to chaos and there will be no end to court cases. 

“This is not a proper case to grant the order sought. It has not been suggested that the grounds advanced here were not advanced to the earlier panel of Federal Court judges who decided in 2000.”  

Justice Gill presided over the case with Federal Court judge Justice Rahmah Hussain and Court of Appeal judge Justice Richard Malanjum. 

The bench ruled that the dismissal was partly due to the delay in the application for review. 

“The application was filed 18 months after the Federal Court handed down its judgment. 

“It is prejudicial for a successful party to be kept in limbo while the loser takes his time to think of the next course of action.  

“This court does not condone this. The interest of all parties is to be safeguarded,” he said.  

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