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High court reserves judgment in case against Erwiana’s employer

23 November 2017

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Erwiana (in pink) is flanked by Edwina Antonio and Cynthia Tellez
of the Mission for Migrant Workers. Behind is her legal counsel, Melville Boase

 By Daisy CL Mandap

Indonesian former domestic worker Erwiana Sulistyaningsih was back at the High Court today, Nov. 23, to hear the closing arguments in a civil action she brought against her abusive former employer, Law Wan-tung.
Recorder Stewart Wong, SC, reserved judgment in the case brought by Sulistyaningsih’s lawyers to challenge the transfer made by Law of her share in a $7 million flat in Tseung Kwan O to her husband two years ago.
The lawyers claim the transfer was made to prevent the Beverly Garden flat being attached to avoid the helper’s claim for compensation, which is due to be heard at the District Court from Dec 4-6 this year.
Law, who was jailed for six years in February 2015 for her horrific abuse of the maid and other offences, was unrepresented in court. However, she forcefully argued that she did not commit fraud in transferring her share in the flat, insisting she was merely holding it in trust for her two children.
Law also revealed she had been estranged from her husband, Barry Tsui since 2010, although he continued to pay the bills for the household as she was penniless.
In his opening speech on Nov. 15, Sulistyaningsih’s counsel, Tony Lo told the court that Law and Tsui bought the flat under the Home Ownership Scheme in 1998. The couple was listed as “beneficial owners”, with each owning half of the property.
On February 6, 2015, just four days before Law was convicted for abusing Sulistyaningsih and a previous helper, Tutik Lestari Ningsih, the housewife signed a “deed of separation”, which stated that she was transferring her share to her husband.
Lo said it was apparent that Law had anticipated the helper filing a claim for compensation against her after her conviction.
But Law denied this, saying she could have transferred her share in the flat much earlier, when she was out on bail before her trial had started.
“I had 11 months to do it, that was a very long time, before the criminal trial had started,” Law said.
She also claimed she “did not have the ability to foresee” that Sulistyaningsih would file a case for compensation against her.
She said it was only after her lawyer had told her that there was a big chance that she would be convicted that she thought she should “be ready”, and so decided to transfer her share in the property to her children.
Again, she insisted that she and her husband had agreed from the time they bought the flat in 1998 that her half-share would be held in trust for their children.
Asked if she had anything more to say before the hearing closed, Law said all she wanted was for the case to be finished quickly as she did not want to go back to court.
During Law’s criminal trial, Sulistyaningsih gave evidence of the extent of the abuse committed against her by the employer, such as twisting a metal tube from a vacuum cleaner in her mouth, causing cuts to her lips, and punching her so hard her teeth cracked.
Sulistyaningsih was given little rest or food, that at one point she was driven to knock at a neighbor’s door at 2am to beg for something to eat.
Her case only came to light when a fellow helper noticed Sulistyaningsih barely able to walk after Law dumped her at the airport for her return flight to Indonesia, with just $70 on her.

It was later revealed Law had put makeup to cover the helper’s injuries, made her wear an adult diaper so she need not stray away from the boarding gate, and threatened to hurt her family to avoid getting caught.
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