Judge asked to rule on latest squabble over Nina Wang's estate

Charitable foundation and justice chief have conflicting views on how vast fortune is spent

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2012, 3:27am

Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum's HK$83 billion estate is back in court, this time in a wrangle over whether she intended the Chinachem Charitable Foundation to have complete control over it as a gift, or to hold it as a trustee for charitable objectives.

The foundation and the secretary for justice disagree about how the will of the late Chinachem group chairwoman, once Asia's richest woman, should be read and have asked the Court of First Instance for a ruling.

The latest move in a long legal wrangle over the vast estate came after the Court of Final Appeal last year recognised a 2002 will leaving it to the foundation and ruled that a 2006 document purportedly leaving it to her fung shui adviser and self-styled lover Tony Chan Chun-chuen was a forgery.

The question that has now arisen is whether Wang meant the foundation, which she set up with her late husband, Teddy Wang Teh-huei, to be trustee or beneficiary.

The secretary for justice, who has a role as protector of charities under the Trustee Ordinance, says the will contains directions for the foundation to use the money for charitable objectives.

The secretary says that Wang did not intend to give her estate to the foundation as a gift, or to confer on it the power to change the objectives for which it was to be used, as the foundation asserts.

"We say that the will, as a whole, shows the testatrix [Wang] did not intend to give the foundation a free hand to decide what to do with the estate," Simon Taube QC, for the secretary, said.

This, he said, was clear from the language of the will.

"Those provisions contain what are legally effective directions to the foundation as trustee of the estate."

A ruling that Wang had left it up to the foundation to change the objectives would be "inconsistent with the mandatory language, the imperative demands" of the will, he said.

Among her stated objectives in the will was one to establish an award similar to the Nobel Prize. Taube said the language made it clear it was a command, and that it imposed an obligation on the foundation to create the prize.

Yesterday was the first day of a hearing that is scheduled to last three days. The administrator of Wang's estate, PricewaterhouseCoopers, is also a party to the proceedings.

Taube said the current value of Wang's estate was about HK$83 billion.

The court also heard that Wang's mother - her next of kin - has indicated she does not wish to make a claim on the estate.

Wang died of cancer, aged 69, in April 2007.

The court has yet to hear from lawyers for the foundation and PwC.

The hearing continues before Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor.