Ex-director not liable for Moulin fall, court rules

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 April, 2009, 12:00am

A former director of Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings yesterday won a court order to strike out a HK$300 million claim against her for her alleged role in the company's downfall.

The order was made by Deputy High Court Judge Ian Carlson, of the Court of First Instance, who found that Olivia Lee Sin-mei was not liable to the loss and damages the company allegedly suffered.

The case was brought by three companies on behalf of Moulin in January last year. They are Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings, Moulin Global Eyecare Trading, and Oaktree Investments. All three companies are in liquidation.

Their claim alleged negligence against Ms Lee, who served on the board of the company from August 2000 until November 2004 and was a founding member of its audit committee. It alleged that her failure to make inquiries or to take proper steps had given way to the company's collapse.

It was alleged that her failures allowed the Moulin Group to be 'dishonestly run into the ground by the Moulin Group management team headed by Mr Cary Ma and his relatives and other associates'.

No allegation of fraud or dishonesty was raised against her.

In yesterday's judgment, Judge Carlson ruled that Ms Lee should not be held liable for the collapse of Moulin Group.

He found the case of Moulin Global Eyecare Holdings did not involve 'wilful negligence' and Ms Lee was entitled to believe that she was not being held to account for more than ordinary negligence or breach of duty.

He also found Ms Lee owed no duty to Moulin Global Eyecare Trading, and Oaktree Investments because it could never be shown that she was a shadow director of theirs.

Moulin collapsed in April 2005 owing HK$2.8 billion to almost 700 creditors. Despite consistent announcements of net profits in excess of HK$100 million, the company had just HK$7.8 million in the bank.

As it was, the accounts of the failed firm showed a pattern of unsecured cash loans being made to members of the family of executive chairman Ma Bo-kee - now in bankruptcy - or people or firms closely associated with them.