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Legal Updates

Legal Updates for February 2020

Improved Double Taxation Agreement Between Singapore and Indonesia
Since 1992, Singapore and Indonesia have had in place the existing Agreement for the Elimination of Double Taxation with respect to Taxes on Income and the Prevention of Tax Evasion and Avoidance ("DTA"). On 4 February 2020, Singapore and Indonesia signed an updated DTA with key changes targeted at lowering the withholding tax rates for royalties and branch profits, providing certain capital gains tax exemptions, and incorporating international standards for countering treaty abuse. The updated DTA represents the culmination of nearly five years of negotiations and indicates the commitment of both Singapore and Indonesia to strengthening their economic cooperation.

Upon ratification by both countries, the updated DTA will progressively enter into force. It is expected to boost bilateral trade and investment flows, which is welcome news to parties with business dealings in both countries both on an individual and corporate level.

The implications of a number of key changes are examined in this Client Update.

Court of Appeal Determines When It Will Allow Testimony by Video Link
While the default position is that witnesses must be physically present before the court to testify, the court may also grant leave for a witness to testify in civil proceedings by video link. In Anil Singh Gurm v J S Yeh & Co and another [2019] SGCA 5, the Singapore Court of Appeal provided a guide as to how the court will approach an application to testify by video link, and the factors to be taken into account. Here, although the witness was merely unwilling and not "unable" to attend in person, the Court allowed the application The respondents in this case were represented by Chandra Mohan Rethnam and Ang Tze Phern of Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP.

What Are the Rights of A Purchaser in An Uncompleted Development?
What happens to the purchasers of units in an uncompleted development where the developer is facing financial trouble and what are their rights vis-à-vis the mortgagee, developer and other creditors? These were some of the questions faced by the High Court in Jay Machinery Pte Ltd v Astoria Development Pte Ltd (unreported). Here, the receivers of the developer successfully submitted that the claims of the purchasers of the units in an uncompleted development, ranked above the claims of the other general unsecured creditors in the event of the developers’ insolvency, and that the purchasers may potentially acquire an equitable proprietary interest in their respective units in the development notwithstanding that separate strata titles to each of the units have not been issued. The receivers were represented by Lee Eng Beng SC, assisted by Sheila Ng, Elsa Chai, Ho Zi Wei and Chow Jie Ying of Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP.

Singapore Court of Appeal Delivers Landmark Judgment on Doctrine of Mistake in Cryptocurrency-Related Contract Claim
Rajah & Tann Singapore's financial services disputes team secured a win for one of the world’s leading cryptocurrency trading companies, B2C2 Ltd ("B2C2"), before the Singapore Court of Appeal. In a ground-breaking decision (Quoine Pte Ltd v B2C2 Ltd [2020] SGCA(I) 02), Singapore's apex court addressed novel legal issues arising in the unregulated and “not for the faint hearted” world of cryptocurrency algorithmic trading. The ruling affirms the first instance decision of the Singapore International Commercial Court, in which cryptocurrency exchange operator, Quoine Pte Ltd was found liable for breach of contract in unilaterally reversing completed trades in Bitcoin and Ethereum. B2C2 was represented by lead counsel, Danny Ong, along with Rajah & Tann’s Sheila Ng, Zhuang Wenxiong and Jason Teo.

FAQs for Employers: Practical Tips on Dealing with the COVID-19 Outbreak
The COVID-19 outbreak across the world has had a major impact on the economy in many countries, with the Ministry of Trade and Industry downgrading Singapore's 2020 GDP growth forecast to -0.5% to 1.5% on 17 February 2020. With the economy and businesses taking a beating, all quarters in Singapore are holding on to the hope that the situation in Singapore will stabilise soon. The Singapore Government has taken a practical approach to contain the spread of the virus while urging the public to continue business as usual where possible.

As businesses adapt to the evolving situation, we address some frequently asked questions on an employer's obligation to comply with the Singapore Government's defensive measures and to provide a safe workplace for their employees while maintaining business continuity.

Budget Speech 2020 – A Masterclass
The Singapore Budget 2020 extended a helping hand to steady the ship in times of uncertainty in the global economy, and to chart the journey for the future. The Budget Speech included tax measures and changes announced across a number of areas.

This Update discusses selected tax measures announced in the Singapore Budget 2020, including temporary measures to provide support for enterprises under the Stabilisation and Support Package and measures to ensure the resilience and competitiveness of our tax system.

FAQ on COVID-19 and its Potential Impact on Contracts
The COVID-19 outbreak has been a jarring development across the globe, bringing about much uncertainty in the commercial world. In this Update, we look at some of the common questions regarding the potential legal impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on contracts and agreements. This includes a focus on force majeure, frustration and the obstructions which may arise in specific industries such as Shipping & International Trade, Construction & Projects, and Hospitality and Tourism.

Anti-Suit Injunctions – Novel Singapore Judgment on Third Party Reliance on Exclusive Forum Clauses
In Hai Jiang 1401 Pte. Ltd. v Singapore Technologies Marine Ltd. ("The Seven Champion") [2020] SGHC 20, the Singapore High Court determined several novel issues in granting an application for an anti-suit injunction against a contractual claim initiated by the Defendant in the United Arab Emirates. Notably, the Court considered whether an anti-suit injunction may be granted against foreign proceedings in breach of an arbitration or exclusive jurisdiction clause in the underlying contract, even if the anti-suit injunction applicant was not a contractual party to the arbitration or exclusive jurisdiction clause. The Court also clarified the applicable standard of proof for anti-suit injunction applications. The Plaintiff was successfully represented by Toh Kian Sing SC, V. Bala and Wu Junneng of Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP.

Exemption from Qualifying Certificate Regime for Publicly Listed Housing Developers with Substantial Connection to Singapore
On 6 February 2020, the Ministry of Law and Singapore Land Authority, in a joint announcement, announced the introduction of an exemption from the existing Qualifying Certificate regime for publicly listed housing developers with substantial connection to Singapore when they acquire residential land from persons (other than the Singapore Government) for the purpose of development ("Exemption"). In this Update, we take a look at the effect of the Exemption, its criteria and relevant issues of applicability.

Developments in Dispute Resolution – A Review of 2019
In 2019, Singapore's legal framework has undergone further development as part of continuing efforts to keep apace with the modernisation and internationalisation of commercial disputes. Similarly, the Singapore courts have issued important decisions that reflect the continuing advancement of the law.

In this Client Update, we review the decisions and developments over the course of 2019, focusing on notable trends including the growing significance of Alternative Dispute Resolution, the facilitation of cross-border dispute resolution and adaptation to digitalisation. We also take a look at some of the decisions over the past year in the areas of Restructuring & Insolvency, Property Law, Contract Law, Shipping Law, Criminal Law and Construction Law.

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