Wing On heir Kwok's maintenance appeal quashed by top court

Kwok must triple payments to ex-wife, as cash from parents is included in couple’s assets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 3:46am

A descendant of the Wing On empire's founder has lost his appeal against a decision to triple his maintenance payments to his ex-wife.

Edwin Kwok, 36, a fourth-generation member of the Kwok family, was ordered by the Court of Appeal in December 2011 to increase his monthly payments to Connie Ng to HK$42,500 and to pay her a lump sum of HK$1.5 million.

The Court of Final Appeal upheld that ruling yesterday.

The court ruled that financial assistance from third parties - in this case, parents - should be included in the couple's assets, if it was likely to continue in the foreseeable future.

The couple married in London in 2000. Between 2005 and 2010, Kwok's parents deposited HK$7 million into his bank account. Kwok's father also paid his credit card bills of almost HK$1 million, while his mother gave him HK$1.6 million in gifts between 2006 and 2008.

Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li wrote : "In looking at reality, the court can take into account not only what a party actually has, but also what might reasonably be made available to him or her if a request for assistance were to be made."

The court said this approach was not aimed at pressuring third parties, such as parents, to continue providing for the divorcing husband and wife, but was aimed at reflecting the true financial status of a couple. A court order would only be binding on the litigating parties, and would not affect third parties who were not involved in the case.

Wing On is best known for its department store in Sheung Wan. Kwok's mother is the daughter of the late Dr Li Shu-pui, one of the founders of the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital. Her brother, Dr Walton Li Wai-tat, is the hospital's superintendent.

The couple met at Harvard University in 1996. Ng alleged that when she lived in America with Kwok, he molested her and left her alone in their flat for three days without food.

Despite that alleged incident, the two continued their friendship and developed a romantic relationship.

Two years after they married, Ng contracted a rare intestinal condition, leading her to undergo more than 10 operations.

The lump sum order was made after considering Ng's needs and the money her parents spent on her medical condition.

The court ruled if they had not separated, Kwok would have paid her medical fees.

Despite his Harvard education, Kwok earned barely HK$15,000 a month as a senior control officer at a Swiss private bank in 2009. By last year he earned about HK$54,000 a month. He had a new girlfriend by the time the pair divorced in 2008, the court heard.