Ruling on top U.K. lawyer reserved
The High Court has reserved judgment on allowing a top British lawyer to lead the criminal prosecution of self-styled fung shui master Tony Chan Chun-chuen.
The Department of Justice has applied for renowned Queen's Counsel David Perry to be its lead prosecutor against Chan, who allegedly forged a will by the late chairwoman of Chinachem, Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum.
However, the Bar Association objects to Perry's appointment, arguing Hong Kong has many capable lawyers who should be given the chance to try the case.
But Kevin Zervos, the director of public prosecutions, disagrees.
'This is an important prosecution with a complicated case and complex factual matrix. This case warrants the admission of David Perry in public interest.'
Chan, 52, earlier lost a four-year probate fight over Wang's estimated HK$50 billion estate, which eventually went to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation.
Wang died of cancer in April 2007 at the age of 69.
This is not the first time the government is seeking to admit Perry to the city's courts.
Last year, Perry led the high-profile retrial of American 'milkshake murderess' Nancy Kissel, which ended in her conviction over the death of her high-flying banker husband, Robert Kissel.
Zervos said the Chan case involved 'unusually difficult and complex issues', coupled with Chan's application for a permanent stay of criminal proceedings at the preliminary inquiry late last month, instead of the usual practice of applying during the trial.
Chan's legal team claims the allegedly forged will was materially altered by chemicals used in forensic tests by the authorities, making it impossible for their experts to conduct their own tests.
The preliminary hearing of Chan's application will be on May 14 before acting principal magistrate David Dufton. The hearing is expected to last three days.
It would be like a full trial, as 27 witnesses would be called, Zervos said. Six local lawyers are among the witnesses, which may cause embarrassment and difficulties to local prosecutors, according to Zervos.
Furthermore, the pool of senior local lawyers available to lead the prosecution is limited, as a number of them were involved in Chan's case and other matters.
Zervos said the case would provide an opportunity for judicial scrutiny of some unresolved legal principles. As such, it would be useful to hire a foreign counsel with expertise in criminal law and expert evidence.
Michael Blanchflower SC, for the Bar Association, has objected to the justice department's application.
There are 25 local senior lawyers who are capable of leading the prosecution. But they have not been approached by the department, according to Blanchflower.
'The case is not unusually complicated. It has been shown that the case is quite common,' he said.
Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung reserved his decision and will hand down a written judgment at a later date.