Slow justice system costs minority owner millions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 May, 2011, 12:00am


The top court slammed the Lands Tribunal for acting slowly in a case involving a compulsory sale of land for redevelopment, with the result that the property dwindled in value and the minority owner lost millions.

Developer Fineway Properties owned all except one shop of the block in Haven Street, Causeway Bay. It applied to the tribunal in July 2007 for an order that the shop be sold by public auction under a land ordinance. The tribunal's hearings began in 2008.

After 18 days of hearings over nine months, the tribunal on March 20, 2009 set a reserve price at HK$70.5 million and ordered an auction.

'When the wheels grind slow, grind small, justice itself can be crushed in the process,' said Mr Justice Henry Litton of the Court of Final Appeal.

Over the nine months, the global financial crisis intervened. That led the tribunal to reset the reserve price of the property from HK$122 million - agreed between the parties in June 2008 - to HK$70.5 million, despite the minority owner's opposition. That owner, the estate of Sin Yat, received HK$6.2 million less. The court ruled yesterday that where a reserve price was wrongly set but the auction had already taken place, it could provide remedies. It did not elaborate.