IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE
HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
IN BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS NO. 2610 OF 2001
Coram: Hon Kwan J in Chambers
Date of Hearing: 6 September 2001
Date of Decision: 6 September 2001
Date of Handing Down of Reasons for Decision: 11 September 2001
REASONS FOR DECISION
1. This is an application taken out by the debtor for security for costs to be provided by the petitioning creditor who is residentabroad. The provision relied on was r.55 of the Bankruptcy Rules which is as follows:
2. It was accepted by Mr James Thomson, who appeared for the debtor, that the court does have a discretion whether or not to order securityfor costs under r.55. This is similar to the situation where an application for security for costs is made under the Rules of theHigh Court, O.23 r.1 in that it is accepted that there is no longer an inflexible or rigid rule that a plaintiff resident abroadshould provide security for costs and that the court may order security if, having regard to all the circumstances of a case, thecourt thinks it just to do so. Mr Thomson also accepted that one of the matters that the court might take into account is the petitioner’sprospects of success in the petition for bankruptcy against the debtor.
3. The background matters giving rise to the petition may be set out as follows.
4. The petitioner and the debtor are brothers. On 19 June 1998, Hartmann J gave judgment in favour of the petitioner against the debtorin High Court Action No. 12972 of 1995 which was consolidated with High Court Action No. 1678 of 1997 in the sum of US$100,000.00with interest thereon as stipulated. The debtor did not pay the judgment debt. Interest on the judgment sum calculated up to 30 July2000 amounted to HK$368,672.69. The petitioner was awarded costs in the proceedings and the taxed costs and interest thereon up to30 July 2000 came up to HK$829,887.05. Thus, the total amount of the judgment debt, interest thereon, taxed costs and interest ontaxed costs came up to HK$1,978,559.74.
5. As the debtor failed to make payment of any part of the debt, the petitioner applied for and obtained charging orders over theseproperties of the debtor:
6. The property in Rich Building was sold and net proceeds of HK$787,125.00 were realised to satisfy in part the petitioner’s debt,reducing the balance outstanding to HK$1,191,434.74. No payment has been made by the debtor to satisfy any part of this outstandingbalance.
7. The petitioner served a statutory demand on the debtor by post on 20 October 2000 and by advertisement in a newspaper on 7 November2000. On 23 April 2001, the petitioner filed his petition for bankruptcy against the debtor and this was served on the debtor personallyon 15 June 2001. The application for security for costs by the debtor was taken out on 13 July 2001.
8. In the amended petition, which was filed on 4 September 2001, the petitioner stated that in the event of a bankruptcy order beingmade against the debtor, he is willing to give up his security over all the other properties for which he has obtained a chargingorder as mentioned above as well as his security over an index-linked savings certificate for ￡5,125.00 in England registered inthe debtor’s name.
9. The debtor has filed affidavits in opposition of the petition. I understand that a further affirmation is to be filed exhibitinga valuation report that the debtor’s solicitors have obtained in respect of the Way Man Property, which is worth more than the debtin the amended petition. It has no material bearing on my assessment of the prospects of success of the petitioner in these proceedings.In his affidavits, the debtor asserted that he has “assets greater than his indebtedness”. He stated that the petitioner has obtainedcharging orders on his landed properties in Hong Kong as mentioned above, that the property at Fullham Court has a heavy overdraftcharged on it to a bank leaving an equity of about HK$300,000.00, and that the two car parking spaces in Elegance Tower are “highlyunsaleable”. The only ground for opposing the petition, as confirmed by Mr Thomson, is that the debtor has brought proceedings againstthe executrix of his mother’s estate in HCA No. 16978 of 1999 seeking a declaration that the notice of severance executed by hismother who severed her joint tenancy with the debtor over the Way Man Property was invalid. If he should succeed, the debtor wouldown the entire property under the doctrine of survivorship and he would then sell the Way Man Property to discharge the debt owedto the petitioner. Apart from the claim for a declaration in respect of the Way Man Property, the debtor has made a claim againsthis mother’s executrix of about HK$1.2 million being monies he had allegedly paid on behalf of his mother.
10. The debtor’s action against his mother’s executrix was tried before me in June 2001 and judgment has been reserved. Mr Thomson submittedthat once there is a judgment in the debtor’s favour, the debtor will be solvent. Alternatively, he invited the court to adjournhis application for security for costs until after judgment is given in HCA No. 16978 of 1999.
11. I am quite unable to see why the petitioner should wait until the outcome of the judgment of the debtor against the executrix. Hehas obtained a judgment against the debtor since June 1998. It is a debt for a liquidated sum presently owing to the petitioner andon the available evidence, there is apparent inability to pay. I am satisfied that the petitioner has good prospects of success onhis petition and it is inappropriate in the circumstances to order him to pay security for costs notwithstanding that he is residentin England.
12. For the above reasons, I have made an order at the hearing dismissing the debtor’s application for security for costs and I haveawarded costs of the application to the petitioner in any event.
Mr Chow Hung Fat, instructed by Messrs Hau, Lau, Li and Yeung, for the Petitioner
Mr James Thomson, instructed by Messrs Emersons, for the Debtor