Ghafar Baba’s ex-wife loses Federal Court appeal over land claim

Court holds that D Heryati Abdul Rahim should have filed lawsuit within six years from the time the alleged contract was breached. (File pic)

PUTRAJAYA: The ex-wife of the late former deputy prime minister Ghafar Baba lost her appeal in the Federal Court in her lawsuit she filed against a property developer and his wife over a piece of land in Jelebu, Negeri Sembilan.

In delivering the court’s decision, Court of Appeal president Ahmad Maarop said D Heryati Abdul Rahim’s cause of action was a breach of contract and not a claim for recovery of land as alleged by her.

He said the limitation period to file a breach of contract lawsuit was six years from the time the alleged contract was breached.

Heryati’s lawsuit was time-barred, he said, as it was filed in 2015, which was more than six years.

Ahmad dismissed Heryati’s appeal and ordered her to pay RM30,000 in costs to the respondents, Lau Ban Tin, a Tan Sri, and his wife, Mary Lee Siew Cheng.

He said when Heryati, through her solicitors, issued a letter of demand in 2014 to the respondents, she knew the land was transferred to Tengku Mohd Kamil Tengku Shahrudin Shah and Tengku Ramli Tengku Shahrudin.

Ahmad said Heryati had agreed that she did not do anything from 2006 to 2014 as she was waiting for the respondents to fulfil their undertaking to transfer the land to her.

“Despite this, when she filed her claim, she did not cite Tengku Mohd Kamil and Tengku Ramli as parties. If she wanted the land, she should have sued Tengku Mohd Kamil and Tengku Ramli. She did not do so,” he said.

The decision was delivered by the remaining four judges, comprising Justice Ahmad, Federal Court judges Ramly Ali, Azahar Mohamed and Alizatul Khair Osman Khairuddin, as provided under Section 78 of the Courts of Judicature Act 1964, as Federal Court judge Aziah Ali had retired.

In her suit filed on Feb 5, 2015, Heryati alleged that the couple failed to transfer ownership of the 8ha of land in Jelebu to her, based on an agreement made on June 20, 2000.

She claimed that at the time, she was still the wife of the former deputy prime minister and co-owned shares with him in the company, Zamrudvest Sdn Bhd, which operated a EON dealer franchise.

She claimed that around the year 2000, she and Ghafar decided to sell the business to the couple at RM300,000.

Heryati alleged that the transaction did not include the sale of the land in Jelebu (owned by the company), and that the ownership should have been transferred to her as soon as the individual grant was issued.

She said that based on the official Land Office records, the land was transferred to Lau and subsequently to Tengku Ramli and she demanded the respondents to transfer ownership, or alternatively pay her damages amounting to RM1 million.

She lost her claim, both in the High Court in 2016 and in the Court of Appeal in 2017.

The High Court had held that her lawsuit was filed out of time as she should have filed within six years from the time the contract was allegedly breached in 2005.