HK man in 110m yuan dispute to get hearing

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 December, 2006, 12:00am

Businessman sues Zhongshan court for illegally holding and selling his land

A Hong Kong businessman who filed a huge compensation lawsuit against a Guangdong court for alleged neglect of duty has won initial success after the court unexpectedly accepted his case.

Chan Ho-wai, who is in his mid-50s, accused several senior court officials of the Zhongshan Intermediate People's Court of failing to carry out a court order and illegally holding 294,372 square metres of land that belonged to him. He is demanding 110 million yuan in compensation from the court, believed to be one of the biggest damage claims filed against a government department in Guangdong.

The Zhongshan court accepted the case on Tuesday and will set a date for a hearing. Mr Chan praised the court president, who assumed his post this year, for being 'courageous and fair'. Mr Chan also plans to ask Guangdong People's Procuratorate to investigate the case.

A staff worker at the Zhongshan court confirmed yesterday it had accepted Mr Chan's claim but declined to comment further.

Mr Chan and a Shanghai business partner bought 294,372 square metres of land in Zhongshan city , Guangdong province, in 1993 for property development. But a dispute broke out between them and had to be taken to court.

The Zhongshan court issued an order to temporarily hold the land until the case was over.

In October 1998, the Guangdong Higher People's Court awarded development rights of the land to the Shanghai company, but ordered that it must exercise its rights within six months.

Mr Chan then signed an out-of-court agreement with the Shanghai company, which subsequently forfeited its rights. On September 21, 2001, the Zhongshan court terminated the Guangdong court's order because the Shanghai company did not exercise its rights within the time frame.

In 2001, the Zhongshan court issued an order to lift the ban on the land and to return it to the owner - which, according to the land licence, is Mr Chan. But the head judge responsible for enforcing the order refused to execute the order.

A few days later, the court issued another ban on the land with an alleged court order from Shanghai People's Intermediate Court. But the Shanghai court denied issuing such an order. It told the Zhongshan court and asked it to lift the ban. The Zhongshan court did, but on the same day it reissued another ban under the name of another court case, which Mr Chan said was unrelated to him.

Over the next five years he became embroiled in a tug-of-war with the court judges who were holding his land, with the court reversing its ban on the land six times in that half-decade period.

Earlier this year, Mr Chan found that 73,260 square metres of his land had been sold to a mainland developer without his knowledge and approval. The court did not give him any details of the transaction.

Finally, after a court leadership change this year, Mr Chan lodged a compensation lawsuit against the Zhongshan court demanding compensation. He said he was 'a bit surprised' that the new leadership accepted the case.

'I thought the chance of them accepting my case was 50 per cent. Now, I am 100 per cent confident that I will win. Many judges and lawyers have called me or sent messages to me, saying that I have done the right thing,' he said.

Mr Chan said his next step was to complain to the procuratorate and ask them to investigate.

'The judges were clearly acting unlawfully. They severely disrupted my company's operations and caused great financial losses to me,' he said.

The case comes amid widespread rumours of corruption in Guangdong courts. Several head judges at the Zhongshan court were reportedly transferred or disciplined this year over bribery scandals, according to a local legal professional. Earlier, five Shenzhen senior judges were arrested for taking bribes.