Trust fund 'alien concept' for Nina Wang, says Chinachem foundation lawyer

Charitable foundation says the businesswoman wouldn't have wanted foreign concept imposed on her fortune as siblings offer plan for estate

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 December, 2012, 3:20am

The late Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum, a Chinese businesswoman, intended to give her fortune to Chinachem Charitable Foundation absolutely, not on trust, and there was no evidence that she knew what a trust was, a court heard yesterday.

Frank Hinks QC, a lawyer for the foundation, was speaking at the Court of First Instance on the second day of a three-day hearing to determine how Wang's will should be read.

"There is no indication she had any conception what a trust is," Hinks said. "A trust is originally an English concept … but to a Chinese businesswoman, it is a foreign concept, an alien concept. There is no reason to believe she would have wanted such an alien concept to be imposed on her estate."

Wang, the late Chinachem group chairwoman once thought to be Asia's richest woman, died of cancer in April 2007, aged 69. Her estate is currently estimated at HK$83 billion.

The foundation and the secretary for justice disagree on how Wang's will should be read and have asked the Court of First Instance for a ruling.

The secretary has a role as protector of charities, and under the Trustee Ordinance has the power to act if there is a breach of a charitable trust or if there is a need for better administration of it. The secretary and foundation disagree over whether Wang left her estate to the latter as a gift free of obligations or on trust. The secretary says it was left to the foundation to hold as trustee to carry out Wang's wishes, but the foundation says it was a gift.

Hinks said the foundation sympathised with the public's concerns and it had "no current desire" to change a memorandum which sets out the charitable activities it may engage in.

The court also heard yesterday that the four siblings of Wang's late-husband Teddy Wang had suggested splitting Nina Wang's estate evenly between the charitable and non-charitable goals in her will if the foundation could not carry out its duties and another trustee could not be appointed. The non-charitable objectives in the will include provisions for Teddy Wang's parents, his siblings, their children, and Chinachem group employees. The siblings have five children in total.

Teresa Wang - referred to as Tak-Shyan Sun in a judgment in a separate case - made the suggestion in a letter sent by lawyers on her behalf, said Anson Wong Man-kit, representing the temporary administrator of Nina Wang's estate. But such a scenario would only arise if the foundation could not carry out its duties and another trustee could not be appointed, and even then, would not work. "The whole scheme suggested by the Wang siblings is practically unworkable in any event," Wong said, also noting Nina Wang's wishes were to use her money for charity.

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 self-styled fung shui adviser Tony Chan Chun-chuen was a forgery. The hearing continues before Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor.