Fok heirs to bear costs for row over Hong Kong tycoon's multi-billion estate

Judge orders two of the late billionaire's children to pay legal fees of 15 family members after 'deplorable' attempt to reopen legal battle

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 4:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 4:05am

Two children of late tycoon Henry Fok Ying-tung who lost their bid to reopen the legal battle over their father's estate have been ordered to bear the legal fees of other family members after a High Court judge found the pair's action to be "deplorable litigation".

Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor ordered Benjamin Fok Chun-yue, who brought the action, and Nora Fok Lai-lor, who supported it, to pay the unspecified costs of the other 15 family members in the case.

Benjamin and Nora are the youngest son and daughter of the five children of Henry Fok and his first wife.

"Trying to reopen the [case] in defiance of the settlement agreement is, in my view, deplorable litigation conduct. Ben should be visited with indemnity costs," the judgment says.

The judge found that Nora Fok, who supported Benjamin with "untenable" arguments, should also pay.

Fok senior had 13 children with three wives. When he died of cancer in 2006, Forbes magazine estimated his fortune at US$3.7 billion. He built his estate on shrewd mainland investments and was a vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

Benjamin, Nora and at least 15 other family members reached a settlement over the multi-billion-dollar estate in August 2012. Benjamin, his brother Ian Fok Chun-wan, and their aunt Fok Mo-kan were appointed executors.

By April last year, Benjamin Fok had gained HK$279 million from the estate. But Benjamin claimed that Ian and another elder brother Timothy Fok Tsun-ting failed to honour a clause that involved a development project in Nansha , Guangzhou. He said the project was worth 30 billion yuan (HK$38 billion).

Benjamin said his two brothers deliberately withheld the existence of an option to buy back 25 per cent of the project at a nominal price of HK$1. He said Ian had failed in his duty and asked the court to reopen the case to remove him as an executor.

The application was heard between October and November last year. In the hearing, 14 of the 17 parties, including Ian and Timothy, asked the court to stay Benjamin's application. Only Nora was on Benjamin's side while their elder sister Patricia Fok Lai-ping remained neutral.

Poon ruled the settlement agreement was still in force and stayed Benjamin's attempt on January 2 this year.