Partial victory for Nina Wang
Billionaire Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum has failed in a bid to find out who bankrolled her father-in-law's attempt to gain control of her late husband's HK$23 billion empire.
But yesterday's ruling by Acting Chief Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi in the Court of Final Appeal was not a complete defeat for Asia's richest woman. She will find out if 93-year-old Wang Din-shin personally incurred any costs and what the arrangements between him and his solicitors are.
The costs of the battle over the estate of Teddy Wang Teh-huei, who was kidnapped and presumed killed in 1990, are believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
It has been widely rumoured that Mr Wang's pursuit of the fortune had the backing of several prominent Hongkongers. Yesterday's application was for an order allowing Mrs Wang's lawyers to investigate the identities of the alleged backers and the nature of the arrangement between them and the elderly Mr Wang.
Benjamin Yu SC, for Mrs Wang, told the court that while his client had agreed to pay Mr Wang's costs, that offer was only made on the understanding that it was actually he who incurred them.
He noted that Mr Wang had cried poor during the epic legal tussle and had been receiving the equivalent of a pension from the estate ever since.
How then, he asked, was his solicitor able to find several million dollars to cover costs? Mr Yu asked whether the solicitors' firm paid the bills itself or whether a person or group of people funded the action.
He observed that if they were funding the case on the understanding they would receive a chunk of the empire that would qualify as champerty - the practice of a third party participating in a lawsuit in order to share in the proceeds - which is a crime.