Deceased property tycoon Nina Wang’s estimated $12 billion fortune will go to her charity foundation after Hong Kong’s top court refused to hear a final bid for the estate from Tony Chan, her former feng shui adviser.
The Court of Final Appeal rejected arguments today from Chan’s lawyer John Katz that the case involves issues of great public importance and that new facts in the case might have affected the outcome of the trial had they been available. Justice Patrick Chan said the three judges would hand down their reasons at a later date.
The ruling brings to an end a five-year battle after Wang, once Asia’s richest woman, died from uterine cancer in 2007. Wang herself fought her father-in-law, the late Wang Din Shin, for six years before the Court of Final Appeal awarded her the fortune, valued last year at $12 billion by lawyers for the estate’s administrators, in 2005.
Chan had argued that Nina Wang left him the money through a 2006 will in part because they had been lovers for 15 years. Two lower courts awarded the fortune to Chinachem Charitable Foundation Ltd., founded by Wang and her late husband Teddy in 1988. Chan faces criminal charges including forgery and is scheduled to appear at a hearing next month.
“We are very happy with the result because they can now proceed with their charitable work,” Keith Ho, a lawyer for the foundation, said after the ruling.
Supervision of the Chinachem Charitable Foundation was to be entrusted to a body formed by the Secretary General of the United Nations, the premier of China and the chief executive of Hong Kong, according to a February ruling.
The foundation would award Chinese prizes of worldwide significance, similar to that of the Nobel Prizes, in addition to its other charity projects, according to the judgment.
Katz argued at today’s hearing that “the entire factual matrix is now different” after presenting new evidence that a witness may have told police a different account of what he and Wang had discussed about the 2006 will in contrast to a previous statement he had given.
Justice Roberto Ribeiro disagreed with Katz’s reading of the police statement and said the witness’ description had been corroborated by others.
“Do we need to reopen a 40-day trial to deal with this?” Ribeiro said.
The 2009 trial examined Chan’s bid for Wang’s property fortune after she died at age 69 in 2007. The trial included testimony from Chinachem staff, siblings, feng shui students, psychiatrists and handwriting experts.
Chan, who is married with three children, said he was hired by Wang in 1992 to help find her husband, Teddy, who had been kidnapped for a second time in 1990. Teddy Wang was declared legally dead in 1999 and his body was never found.
Chan dug holes at various sites owned by the Chinachem Group for seven years, and received about HK$2.1 billion ($270 million) from Wang between 2005 and 2006, according to a court judgment. His lawyers said the payments were intended to groom him for managing her estate.
Feng shui, literally translated as “wind and water,” is a 5,000-year-old Chinese practice of arranging the physical environment to harmonize with the daily lives of people who live within it. Feng shui masters used the practice to advise emperors for the best locations of their palaces and tombs.
The case is between Chinachem Charitable Foundation Ltd. and Chan Chun Chuen and the Secretary for Justice, FAMV20/2011 in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
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