Tony Chan gets extra time for probate appeal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 February, 2010, 12:00am

Fung shui master Tony Chan Chun-chuen has been given more time to prepare an appeal against the rejection of his claim to the multibillion-dollar estate of late tycoon Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum.

Mr Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon, in the Court of First Instance, yesterday allowed Chan to file his appeal on March 19, an extension of just over two weeks from the original application date of March 2.

Chan is seeking to overturn Lam's ruling on February 2 that a will Chan claimed Wang had made in 2006, leaving him her entire fortune, was forged.

Lam ruled that a 2002 will that left the estate to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, governed by Wang's siblings, was the only and valid last will. The judgment prompted Chan's arrest the next day on suspicion of forgery.

The court heard yesterday that Chan would argue that Lam had erred in the way he had used evidence from a handwriting expert - evidence that he used to conclude the will had been forged.

He would also seek to challenge Lam's finding that he had been involved in the making of the forged will.

Chan had a month to submit the grounds of his appeal after the judgment was handed down on February 2. But on February 19, Chan's solicitors filed an application with the city's High Court for more time, saying his counsel were not available.

Barrister Godfrey Lam SC, for Chan, yesterday said they would only need another two weeks or so because lead counsel Ian Mill QC had just finished with a case and was ready to start work on the appeal.

The foundation opposed the delay, saying Chan should have provided information on the grounds of appeal before now to justify an extension.

'We do have grounds of appeal,' Godfrey Lam replied. He said the judge had wrongly used evidence by handwriting expert Robert Radley, who testified for the Chinachem Charitable Foundation. Radley told the court Wang's signature on the disputed will was very likely to have been forged, based on a number of significant differences.

The barrister also said the reasons the judge gave for disbelieving Chan's evidence on the making of the 2006 will were inadequate. '[The judge] was wrong in assuming [Chan] had a part to play in the making of the forged will,' Godfrey Lam said.

Barrister Jeremy Chan, for the foundation, said the judge's approach to the expert evidence followed that of the Court of Final Appeal in Wang's own probate battle against father-in-law Wang Din-shin, and Chan's lawyer had failed to say how they were going to show that this logic was flawed.

The barrister also criticised Chan for failing to explain how he would disprove the finding that he had played a part in the making of the forged will.

Granting the delay, the judge said it would be right and fair to give Chan's lawyers more time because the case was complicated and the extra time demanded was reasonable.

'I am not going to get involved in a debate [concerning the grounds of appeal]. I am not going to say this is a hopeless appeal ... it may be arguable,' the judge said.

Outside the court, Keith Ho Man-kei, for the foundation, said an application regarding the role of the estate's administrator had been heard by the court.

He said the administrator had been permitted to continue managing the estate and a hearing after May 24 would be held before Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling to decide whether the administrator should be discharged or changed.

Mr Justice Lam will also be hearing arguments from relevant parties, including the Department of Justice, over the cost of the probate trial, but no hearing date has been set.