How did T.T. Durai clear $4m debt to NKF?

SINGAPORE - Former National Kidney Foundation (NKF) chief, T.T. Durai was spared from having to declare bankruptcy when three men rallied behind him to help him pay of the outstanding debt of over $4 million he owed to the charity.

The Sunday Times reported that businessman Charles Letts, architect Albert Hong, and Mr Durai's younger brother, a business consultant, helped Mr Durai clear $4.05 million of his debt last year.

The bigger contributor was Mr Letts, who at 93 is arguably the oldest chief executive in Singapore's Central Business District. Mr Letts owns a company dealing with palm oil in Indonesia and gold mining in Australia, Brazil and Argentina, according to the report.

While Mr Letts declined to say how much he contributed, he told The Sunday Times that he's got his own convictions and they usually lead him to do the right thing.

But he said the amount he gave Mr Durai reflected their long friendship, going back 30 years, as well as what he thought of the former NKF chief.

Mr Letts said: "I think he led the NKF brilliantly. He is one of the many people I helped. I help any friend."

On what he thought about Mr Durai, Mr Letts said: "I hold him in great esteem. You would if you knew him well. I am more than ever impressed by his ability. He is strong and healthy and a good family man."

When details about Mr Durai's extravagent lifestyle was made public in 2005, he and the entire NKF board was forced to stepped down.

Following that in 2007, NKF sued Mr Durai and three other NKF board members to recover about $12 million that had been "improperly paid out or used by the former board and CEO".

Mr Durai paid up what he owed to the NKF in 11 instalments and the charity has since closed the chapter on Mr Durai and the others.

Based in Singapore, Mr Durai now runs his own consultancy and, among other things, promotes an anti-ageing product, said the report.

An unnamed source also told The Sunday Times that Mr Durai was apparently determined not to be made a bankrupt as he felt he had not done anything wrong while working for the NKF.

The source also revealed that the second contributor, Dr Hong, who is recognises Durai's immense work for the NKF, also gave Mr Durai's daughter a scholarship to study medicine overseas.

maryanns@sph.com.sg

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