Brothers'battlefor estate heats up

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 May, 2012, 12:00am


The family battle over the estate of late tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung took another twist yesterday when one of his sons asked a court to throw out an attempt by his brother to remove him as a co-executor of the will.

Businessman Ian Fok Chun-wan has sought a stay of Benjamin Fok Chun-yue's application to remove him as an administrator of the estate.

Lawyers for the pair appeared before the Court of First Instance to discuss a schedule for filing documents and set the date of the hearing into Benjamin Fok's application.

Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor gave directions on when the brothers should file papers regarding Ian Fok's application for a stay. He will hear the case on September 20.

Henry Fok, who was always one step ahead in investing on the mainland and rose to be a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, died from cancer aged 83 in 2006. He was married three times and had 13 children.

In 2006, Forbes ranked Henry Fok the 181st wealthiest person in the world with an estimated US$3.7 billion. It ranked his descendants collectively in ninth place in a list of Hong Kong's 40 richest in 2008, with a combined worth of US$4.5 billion.

Ian and Benjamin Fok and their aunt Fok Mo-kan were named executors. Benjamin is also seeking to remove her.

Earlier this month, Benjamin Fok asked the court to allow him to bring in a British Queen's Counsel to represent him in the case, which he described as unusually complex. He noted that overseas companies and bank accounts were involved. His application was refused.

Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung set out his reasons for the rejection yesterday, saying the use of corporate vehicles and overseas companies for tax or estate-planning purposes was not new.

'I am not satisfied that the grounds put forward in support of the application for admission [of the counsel] have been made out,' he said in a written judgment. 'I am not satisfied that they would be issues of 'unusual' complexity or difficulty. Nor am I satisfied that they would be issues having a substantial impact on local jurisprudence.'

Benjamin Fok has also taken legal action to obtain a book containing his father's financial records, which he said another brother, lawmaker Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, had refused to hand over.

In his application for his brother and aunt's removal as executors filed in December, Benjamin Fok alleges that his brother took and distributed assets from the estate without the knowledge or consent of the other executors, and failed to provide the information and authorisations needed for the proper administration of the estate.

Benjamin Fok has applied for a summary judgment - a ruling without a formal trial - of his application. The court is due to hear arguments on the possibility of a summary judgment on July 31.