Tycoons in 'charade' to defeat assets claim, ex-wife's lawyers say

Property chief and son schemed to prevent ex-wife from getting marital assets, say lawyers for woman who won HK$1.4 billion settlement

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 4:29am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 October, 2013, 4:29am

A woman who was awarded a record HK$1.4 billion in a divorce settlement said the payment should be increased to more than HK$3 billion because of the "gross conduct" of her ex-husband and his father, the billionaire patriarch of the Prudential Enterprise property empire.

In the Court of Appeal, lawyers for Florence Tsang Chiu-wing said a claim by her former father-in-law Samuel Tak Lee that he had the right to buy his son's billion-dollar property business at a nominal price was nothing but a "charade".

The scheme was created to absorb almost all of the son Samathur Li Kin-kan's assets in order to defeat Tsang's claim, her lawyers said.

They said the trial judge was wrong to have denied Tsang the right to argue against the father and son's "gross conduct", and that his decision to award just 20 per cent of the marital assets, worth HK$6.5 billion, was flawed.

It was the third day of an appeal brought by the father and son who want the settlement decreased to HK$524 million - the amount a judge found she would need to fund the lifestyle she enjoyed during her marriage.

Tsang is rejecting their offer and in a cross-appeal is arguing that she should get half of the assets.

The pair's eight-year marriage broke down in 2008 after Tsang refused her husband's demand for an abortion, then discovered he was having an affair.

The court heard the father and son entered into an agreement that Lee could exercise a right to buy the son's property business, including shops in Tokyo rented by brands such as Prada and H&M, for "one dollar".

Barrister Charles Howard QC, for Tsang, said: "It was all a charade because [the assets] would all go back to the husband eventually."

He said the 20 per cent award reached by the trial judge was "way too low", and the judge's decision was flawed by consideration of irrelevant factors.

Howard said the father's contribution to the son's business should not affect the size of the marital assets; otherwise every such proceeding would be troubled by claims from the father.

He also complained about the delay in getting the settlement award, saying that the husband, a big spender, would have spent a large part of the pot since the pair divorced five years ago.

"[Li] has been spending money like … water," he said. The court heard that Li lavished more than HK$100 million a year on himself.

Howard also opposed the father and son's application for a retrial. Calling the father probably the "most litigious man in the world", he said Lee would probably take the case to the Court of Final Appeal if he lost again.

The appeal continues today.