Crooked tycoon declared bankrupt

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2012, 12:00am


Disgraced property tycoon George Tan Soon-gin was declared bankrupt in the Court of First Instance yesterday after he failed to pay a debt of more than HK$60 million to his long-time foe, Rogerio Lam Sou-fung.

The debt arose from a legal fight in which Tan (pictured) was found to have sold precious Chinese porcelain borrowed from Lam in 1982.

Tan - former head of the failed Carrian Group property empire who was jailed in the 1990s - was ordered by the Court of First Instance last May to pay Lam the price fetched by three of the antiques at a 2005 auction: a Guyuexuan vase sold for HK$103 million, a stem cup for HK$2.8 million and a double-gourd vessel for HK$5 million.

A dish and a pair of quail dishes were ordered to be returned to Lam, son of the late Hang Seng Bank founder Lam Bing-yim.

All five antiques dated from the Song and Qing dynasties.

The Court of Appeal later ordered Tan to pay another HK$11.8 million to Lam for damage that had diminished the value of the stem cup and double gourd.

Lam received the money for the Guyuexuan vase directly from Sotheby's, which had not yet passed on payment to Tan. But that was all he received.

The outstanding debt was put at HK$60 million, including interest but not legal costs.

Master Andy Ho Chi-yin yesterday allowed Lam's bankruptcy petition against Tan, filed in October last year, after Tan did not file any objection to the application. Neither Tan nor any of his representatives were in court.

The two tycoons - both previously jailed in separate high-profile criminal cases - have been at loggerheads for more than 20 years, so much so that the High Court judge who presided over the original case said the hostility between the two was 'abundantly clear' and they had a 'profound dislike' for each other.

Tan was jailed for three years in 1996 after he admitted conspiracy involving US$238 million in secret loans obtained by Carrian from the Malaysian-based Bank Bumiputra.

Lam was convicted in 2002 of a multimillion-dollar bank fraud. He was jailed for 20 months and barred from being a company director for five years.

Between December and January, two stolen vehicles have been set alight in separate incidents within eight days outside Tan's luxury residence in Tseung Kwan O.

Police described the two pre-dawn arson cases, one of which was caught on surveillance cameras, as probably a warning to someone in the mansion.