Children of late tycoon Henry Fok say brother misled them in estate dispute

Children of late property tycoon Henry Fok say their brother Ian Fok withheld crucial information in dispute over their father's estate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 4:30am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 4:30am

A son and daughter of late tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung accused their brother of deliberately misleading them into believing a 30 billion yuan (HK$38 million) property project was included in their father's estate and induced them to agree to a settlement, a court heard yesterday.

Benjamin Fok Chun-yue, the third son of Fok by his first wife, relied totally on information from second brother Ian Fok Chun-wan when he signed an agreement in August last year to stop seeking to dislodge Ian and an aunt as co-executors of the will, said barrister Winston Poon Chun-fai SC, for Benjamin.

The agreement was reached among 17 members of the Fok family through mediation by two influential figures between May and July last year, the court has heard. According to Chinese-language media reports, the two were ex-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa and former secretary for justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie.

At the time, Ian Fok told the pair that he had acted in "great sincerity" and "utmost good faith" in disclosing everything about the Nansha project in Guangzhou, Poon told the court.

However, Ian failed to add that members of the first family could exercise a HK$1 buy-back option to secure a combined 25 per cent ownership of the Nansha land, which was held by a charitable foundation under Henry Fok's name, Poon said.

He also failed to tell Benjamin Fok that the option expired in 2007, Poon said. Benjamin knew there was an option but was unaware of the details, he said.

"If Benjamin had known the option had expired, he would never have agreed to the settlement," the barrister said.

Poon argued the agreement was not reached on an equal basis as Ian Fok knew something that the other side did not.

The second brother "deliberately and seriously" breached his duties and should be removed as an executor of the estate, he said.

Apart from Benjamin Fok, who is the third co-executor of the will, his sisters Nora Fok Lai-lor and Patricia Fok Lai-ping also filed High Court writs last month to back his action to remove Ian.

Barrister Linda Chan SC, representing Nora Fok, said she had also known nothing about the option and had relied on Ian Fok's information. She knew only that an option would be granted to the family company.

Apart from the Nansha row, Nora Fok also alleged the agreement had not worked out well.

She got a letter from the estate in December saying she could expect dividends of about HK$26 million, but was then told HK$21 million had to be deducted to repay a family company, Chan said.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor on Monday.

The senior Fok died of cancer in 2006 leaving an estimated HK$1.4 billion in assets plus shares in Henry Fok Estates. In the year he died, Forbes estimated his fortune at US$3.7 billion. He married three times and Ian, Benjamin, Nora and Patricia Fok are from his first family.