Philanthropist Henry Fok's children renew fight for control of his estate
Seven years after Henry Fok's death, the legal battle over who is in charge of estate left by the late philanthropist has taken another twist
In what a lawyer described as a "sad situation", the children of late philanthropic tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung went to court yesterday, seven years to the day after his death, to resume their fight for control of his vast estate.
It was the latest episode in a legal battle in which Ian Fok Chun-wan is seeking to ward off an attempt by younger brother Benjamin Fok Chun-yue and two sisters to remove him and an aunt as executors.
Ian Fok's lawyer, Denis Chang SC, said it was a "sad situation" as the senior Fok had died exactly seven years earlier on October 28, 2006, aged 83.
He accused Benjamin of trying to hijack his father's legacy of charity work in the booming Nansha district of Guangzhou, the family's ancestral home.
The hearing followed one in May when Benjamin's application - made on the grounds that his elder brother had withheld information about a project in Nansha - was adjourned to yesterday for Ian Fok to argue whether the case should be reopened.
Sisters Patricia Fok Lai-ping and Nora Fok Lai-lor have since thrown their support behind the application, which seeks to replace Ian with retired judge Anthony Rogers.
Urging the court to stay the application, Chang said Ian Fok had done his job, with the estate having distributed HK$1.108 billion to the beneficiaries. Ian also took out HK$1.141 billion for the siblings, of which Benjamin had already received HK$279 million.
"It is Benjamin who caused the problem with the settlement agreement," Chang said.
The lawyer was referring to an agreement signed in August last year among the brothers, with 15 other siblings and relatives, under which Ian and aunt Fok Mo-kan would remain as executors despite an attempt by Benjamin in 2011 to dislodge them.
Citing new information, Benjamin alleged in April that Ian had failed in his duty to disclose a buy-back option involving the Nansha project that could have affected part of his entitlement.
Chang said Benjamin's attempt had "fundamentally affected" the spirit of last year's agreement, which was to avoid litigation in all aspects. He said their mother and aunt, both named as defendants, did not want the case heard in court.
The lawyer said the Nansha project referred to by Benjamin was not included in the settlement. Its profits were put into a foundation for charitable purposes and should not be counted as part of the estate.
Chang said Fok senior had a great passion for Nansha and the foundation had been created to continue his charity work there.
Winston Poon SC, for Benjamin, said Ian had acted in bad faith. He was guilty of misconduct and the case should go to trial, he said.
The hearing continues before Judge Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor.
The senior Fok's estate comprises assets of HK$41.4 billion and shares in Henry Fok Estates. He married three times and had 13 children.