Commercial dispute resolution
International trade and commodities
Unjust enrichment and restitution
Tham Lijing’s practice focuses on five core areas: commercial dispute resolution; civil fraud; international trade and commodities; trusts disputes; unjust enrichment and restitution. He typically acts as lead counsel but also as a member of a team in the largest or most complex commercial disputes. He is at home in court or in arbitration.
He is familiar with the demands and nuances of international dispute resolution. For example, as lead counsel he has advised a Venezuelan state-owned entity on its trading disputes with regional parties; the Sarawak Government; a major Australian pharmaceutical corporation against an Indian drug manufacturer; and the Cambodian operations of an international luxury hotel chain.
A “lawyer’s lawyer” (2021), he has a reputation for the creative spark that gives him fresh insights to difficult problems. Instructing solicitors have said his arguments “turned my head inside out” (2020), while clients have noted that he “makes the most complicated legal and factual issues appear simple, and then delivers his advice in a crisp, clear and precise manner” (2017). But he is also known to be a team player, who will get into the trenches with instructing lawyers and clients.
Lijing has an extensive commercial disputes practice, typically claims involving allegations of fraud, illegality, or breach of fiduciary duties. Apart from being instructed to appear in hearings, he is also brought on in the middle of proceedings to advise on strategy and pleadings. Recent cases include:
- Instructed by a state-owned Indonesian bank in High Court proceedings to set aside an ex parte injunction and enforce a demand guarantee: Boustead Singapore Limited v PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia (Persero) TBK (Singapore Branch) (2021)
- Instructed by the estate of an individual to recover, along with two other individuals, US$16m seized by the CAD under sections 35 and 370 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The case involved alleged breaches of United Nations Sanctions; an examination of the interplay between section 370 and private property rights; and the application of the Quistclose trust in the context of oil trading: Public Prosecutor v Benito Aloria Yap (2021)
- Instructed by a major trade house to resist an appeal under section 21A of the Arbitration Act against the Tribunal’s finding that it had no jurisdiction as the Notice of Appeal referred to a non-existent arbitration agreement. The opposing party raised the novel issue that section 9 of the Arbitration Act allowed the court to declare that the arbitration had commenced notwithstanding an ineffective Notice of Arbitration: Mitsui & Co Energy Trading Singapore Pte Ltd v Glencore Singapore Pte Ltd (2021)
- Instructed in a High Court trial involving cross-claims arising out of a share-purchase agreement, amounting approximately to $2.5m. This case arose out of a joint venture in China between the parties. Had initially been instructed to argue the appeal against summary judgment and succeeded on the basis of an equitable set-off: Mah Sau Cheong v Ng Koon Yee Mickey (2020)
- Acted for two private investment funds in their appeal against the Judge’s findings in OUE Lippo Healthcare Limited v Crest Capital Asia  SGHC 142. The appeal concerned the rules of when knowledge can be attributed to a company for the purposes of dishonest assistance and unlawful means conspiracy, whether a parent company can claim for the losses of its subsidiary, and causation of economic loss. Led by Toby Landau QC
Lijing has been instructed in claims that involve allegations of fraud and dishonesty. He has also advised and acted in the initial investigations and subsequent asset tracing stages. Key matters include:
- Advised one of Japan’s largest healthcare groups on the fraudulent conduct of and breach of fiduciary duties by a former director. This case raised complex issues of corporate reorganisation, equity and debt financing, and the director’s conflicts of interest
- Advised a global financial services company on its investigations into potential fraud carried out by its subsidiaries in Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. This involved the co-ordination of investigations with independent Singapore, English, US lawyers, and a global intelligence company. Led by V K Rajah SC
- Advised a regional financial services group on its investigations into fraudulent actions, breach of fiduciary duties, and breaches of contract by senior representatives. Oversaw internal and external investigations, conceptualised the strategy to mitigate fallout, manage negative publicity, and avoid future repeat. Led by V K Rajah SC
Lijing’s work in this area covers dry disputes, documentary credits, and oil trading disputes. He acts for some of the world’s largest trade houses. More notable cases include:
- Instructed by a major trade house to defend a claim by an international bank involving allegations arising out of the insolvency and fraud of Hin Leong Trading Pte Ltd: HC/S 1007/2020. Led by Chan Leng Sun SC
- Instructed by a major trade house in confidential SIAC arbitration proceedings (2020) involving alleged non-delivery in the context of a series of trades. This was one of the largest SIAC arbitrations at the time. Led by Toby Landau QC
- Advised an oil trader on a $100m claim brought against it by Maybank. The bank alleged fraud by the beneficiary of a letter of credit and raised the issue of whether the issuing bank can also be the discounting bank under UCP 600: Citus Trading v Malayan Banking Berhad (2019). Led by V K Rajah SC
Matters involving breach of fiduciary duties, breach of trust, and the assertion of a proprietary interest to property (whether by way of a constructive or resulting trust) form a large part of Lijing’s practice. To illustrate:
- Acted for an investment holding company in High Court proceedings brought by a shareholder in relation to a joint venture in Vietnam. A counterclaim was brought against the shareholder inter alia for breach of fiduciary duties and negligence. The claim value is in excess of US$20m. The shareholder had also (unsuccessfully) sought a mandatory injunction in the High Court to compel KPMG to issue a valuation for the shares in the holding company: DRS Capital Ventures Private Limited v Blenheim Investment Holdings Vietnam Limited (2020)
- Acted in confidential ICC arbitration proceedings for members of a prominent Indian business dynasty involving a claim to dissolve a family trust. There was an application for emergency arbitrator relief and various related claims in the Indian courts (2020). Led by Toby Landau QC
- Acted in High Court litigation involving a trust claim over approximately $1b of assets. The case gave rise to a number of interlocutory disputes in the Court of Appeal and the BVI, including whether the plaintiff could assert a proprietary interest over the trust assets and whether the plaintiff was entitled to a anti-suit injunction against proceedings in the BVI: Jhaveri Darsan v Lakshmi Salgaocar (unreported); Lakshmi Anil Salgaocar v Jhaveri Darsan  2 SLR 372; Jhaveri Darsan v Million Dragon Wealth Limited (BVI) (2019). Led by Toby Landau QC
Lijing maintains an academic interest in the law of restitution and unjust enrichment. He read unjust enrichment in the BCL under Lord Andrew Burrows JSC, Justice James Edelman (HCA); Profs Robert Chambers and Charles Mitchell. He has written a number of articles on the law of unjust enrichment in Singapore, with the aim of simplifying a peculiarly difficult subject.
Apart from being regularly instructed to give confidential opinions on aspects of unjust enrichment within broader claims (in litigation and arbitration), he is also instructed as a specialist solely to address the issues of unjust enrichment that may arise in a particular case.
For example, he acted for the shareholders of an oil trading company who asserted a proprietary interest by way of a Quistclose trust against the sale proceeds paid by the company to the defendant seller, who had failed entirely to perform its delivery obligations (i.e. total failure of consideration defeating the bona fide purchaser defence). The shareholders sought an interim proprietary injunction to restrain the defendant from dissipating the sale proceeds. The High Court Judge observed that the application of the Quistclose trust in the circumstances was “novel” but accepted that there was a seriously arguable case and granted the injunction: Benito Aloria Yap v Petchem International Trading and Shipping Pte Ltd (unreported).
Historically, Lijing has appeared and/or advised in a number of leading cases. More interesting ones include: L Capital Jones Ltd v Maniach Pte Ltd  1 SLR 312 (Court of Appeal overruled five previous Court of Appeal decisions on an important point of appellate procedure; also held that for the purposes of section 6 of the International Arbitration Act, a step taken by the subsidiary could be attributed to the parent company); Public Prosecutor v Lee Sze Yong  3 SLR 533 (acted pro bono for the accused in a kidnapping case, avoided the imposition of the death penalty); Public Prosecutor v Zhang Xi (2019) (acted pro bono for the accused facing 14 charges under the Women’s Charter, 30 days trial, acquitted on all charges); Public Prosecutor v Ng Sae Kiat  5 SLR 167 (part of a Law Society amicus team submitting on market misconduct under section 201(b) of the Securities and Futures Act); Teo Wai Cheong v Credit Industriel et Commercial  3 SLR 573 (acted for private client against a bank that was found to be in flagrant breach of its discovery obligations, private client was ultimately successful); Law Society of Singapore v Kurubalan s/o Manickam Rengaraju  4 SLR 91 (acted for solicitor in breach of the rule against champerty).
He has published widely in the Law Gazette across a range of topics from restitution to administrative and criminal law. Some of his articles have been referred to in judgments: BOI v BOJ  2 SLR 1156 (Court of Appeal), Public Prosecutor v Suresh s/o Krishnan  SGDC 141; Public Prosecutor v Adaikalaraj a/l Iruthayam  SGDC 308.
Before joining private practice, he was a Justices’ Law Clerk and Assistant Registrar in the Supreme Court of Singapore. He also taught Evidence, Civil Procedure, and Administrative Law at the SMU School of Law. He is a member of the SMU School of Law Advisory Board.
BCL (Distinction), Magdalen College, University of Oxford
BA (Jurisprudence) (First Class Hons), Magdalen College, University of Oxford
Gibbs prize: proxime for best performance in Contract, Tort, Trusts, and Land, University of Oxford
Lovells Prize for best performance in 2nd year, Magdalen College, University of Oxford
20 Essex St Prize for best performance in 1st year, Magdalen College, University of Oxford
Scholar (until 2009), Magdalen College, University of Oxford
Distinction in Law Moderations, Magdalen College, University of Oxford