Chinachem foundation is not 'absolute' beneficiary of Nina Wang's estate, says court

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 11:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 February, 2013, 5:25pm

The Chinachem Charitable Foundation only holds the huge estate of Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum on trust and was not its "absolute" beneficiary, the High Court ruled on Friday.

Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor, of the Court of First Instance, wrote in his judgement: “Upon a proper construction of the will, I find that all… requirements of a charitable trust are satisfied.”

“Admittedly, Nina [Wang] did not use the word ‘trust’. But nothing turns on that. For one thing, the absence of such a technical term in the will, a home-made will drafted by Nina…is understandable.”

The judge delivered his judgment on the proper reading of the will after the secretary of justice requested it following a disagreement over the foundation’s obligations under the will. The foundation has argued it was the absolute beneficiary and had the discretion on how to use the HK$83 billion fortune left by Nina Wang. Wang, once the richest woman in Asia, died in 2007 from cancer.

Outside the court, Chinachem solicitor Keith Ho said: “The legal team will have to discuss the judgment. But it’s highly likely we will file an appeal.”

An appeal can be filed within 28 days.

“The foundation wants to carry out charitable projects soon. Filing an appeal is just a part of the procedure that the foundation has to go through,” Ho said.

Secretary of Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung acts as a protector of charities in Hong Kong. Under the Trustee Ordinance, he has the power to intervene if there is a breach of a charitable trust or a need for better administration of it.

Friday’s ruling, which is the latest chapter in a long legal dispute over the estate, began after the Court of Final Appeal last year recognised a 2002 will leaving it to the foundation. It ruled that a 2006 document purportedly leaving the estate to self-styled fung shui adviser Tony Chan Chun-chuen was a forgery.