x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Wang's lover loses bid for billions

Feng Shui master displaced as heir after a will leaving him the $4bn estate of late Hong Kong tycoon Nina Wang is ruled a forgery.

The Hong Kong tycoon Nina Wang left behind an estate worth US$4 billion when she died in 2007.
The Hong Kong tycoon Nina Wang left behind an estate worth US$4 billion when she died in 2007.

A will leaving the US$4 billion (Dh14.69bn) estate of the late Hong Kong tycoon Nina Wang to her former lover and feng shui master is a forgery, a court has ruled. The money will now probably go to a charity she founded, pending a possible final appeal. Wang, known as "Little Sweetie", was one of Asia's wealthiest women with a business empire that included the Chinachem Group, the largest private property developer in Hong Kong. She died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 69.

After her death, Tony Chan, a geomancer, produced a 2006 will that left her estate to him. But the high court yesterday ruled the signatures on the document that purported to belong to Wang and a witness were "highly skilled simulation". Wang's relationship with Mr Chan would not have led her to leave him the estate, "irrespective of her other commitments and responsibilities", the court said in a summary of its judgment. Mr Chan was not a credible witness and had lied to the court, it said.

The court upheld a 2002 will that gave the money to Chinachem Charitable Foundation, run by Wang's family members. Mr Chan's lawyer, Jonathan Midgley, said his client would appeal against the decision. "Mr Chan is extremely disappointed at the judgment," Mr Midgley said. "While the judgment is a long one and obviously it's being considered at the moment, he's able to say now this judgment will be the subject of appeal."

Keith Ho, the lawyer representing the charity group, said: "The foundation is happy with today's judgment. The court accepted evidence from expert witnesses that the signature on the 2006 will was forged." A final decision on the case may be made in the city's highest court, the court of final appeal, which could take between 12 and 18 months, said Fai Hung Cheung, a lawyer at Allen and Overy in Hong Kong.

If the case goes to that court, legal costs may reach as much as HK$200 million (Dh94.5m), including fees for lawyers and experts, said Tak Wong, a probate lawyer with Wong Shum and Co. Wang was dubbed "Little Sweetie" after a Japanese manga cartoon character and was known for her trademark braided pig-tails, mini-skirts and giggly personality. Her brother, Kung Yan-sum, said the family would leave it to the government to decide if any action should be taken against Mr Chan.

The trial began on May 11 last year. Witnesses called included Chinachem staff, siblings and friends of Wang and Mr Chan, feng shui students, doctors, psychiatrists and handwriting experts. As part of a campaign to discredit Mr Chan, Chinachem put on an 80-minute puppet show in May called One Life, One Love, detailing the romantic bond between Wang and her husband, the property mogul Teddy Wang. The Shanghai native Nina Kung inherited most of her wealth from her husband, a childhood friend she married in 1955. Teddy had turned his father's Shanghai paint and chemical business into one of Hong Kong's biggest closely held property developers, with a portfolio including Chinachem twin towers and Chinachem Exchange Square.

The tycoon, who kept a regular schedule and refused to hire bodyguards, was kidnapped in 1983 and again in 1990. He was never seen again after the second abduction, despite the payment of a $33m ransom. Nina Wang ran Chinachem using a power of attorney until her father-in-law, Wang Din-shin, had her husband declared legally dead in 1999. A dispute over the empire Teddy spent three decades building ensued, and in a 2005 court case, Nina beat her father-in-law for control.

Teddy and Nina Wang had no children. * with Bloomberg and Reuters