Fugitive tycoon Joseph Lau to marry girlfriend amid rumours of estate battle worth billions

A notice of intended marriage was displayed at the government’s registration office, while his ex denies any intention to fight for fortune

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 1:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 November, 2016, 11:00pm

The high-profile love saga of fugitive tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung has taken a dramatic turn with news of his marriage registration with long-time partner Chan Hoi-wan.

A notice of intended marriage, with the names of the couple, was displayed at the marriage registration office at the Queensway Government Offices.

The notice was issued last Friday. Under Hong Kong law, those intending to marry must apply for the notice, which would then be displayed at the marriage office for 15 days. Registrants have to get married within three months after the notice was issued.

Asked about the marriage registration, Lau, 65, told Apple Daily of Chan: “She is not greedy. She is pure and she is not a bad woman. She has been taking good care of me and my children. She has a kind heart.”

Lau, whose love life has held the attention of the city, is one of Hong Kong’s wealthiest, holding a controlling stake in listed developer Chinese Estates Holdings.

In 2014, the billionaire was handed a jail term of five years and three months by a Macau court for his part in a bribes-for-land racket involving one of the most corrupt public officials in the former Portuguese enclave.

But Lau remains a free man in Hong Kong due to the lack of a formal legal agreement allowing people convicted of crimes to be moved between the two places.

Last week, Lau announced in a full-page statement printed in several newspapers that he had ended his relationship with ex-girlfriend Dr Yvonne Lui Lai-kwan, 37, in 2014.

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According to that statement, Lau maintained contact and correspondence with Lui, a former Miss Hong Kong semi-finalist, solely because she was the mother of his two children. Lau even said that he had given Lui “money, jewellery and other gifts” with a total value of over HK$2 billion.

In an interview with Apple Daily later, Lau accused Lui of being greedy, saying: “Even if you give her HK$10 billion, she will still betray me for HK$1 ... she’s greedy forever.”

Lau said he had given “billions” each to his long-time partner Chan, 37, and his son Lau Ming-wai. The younger Lau’s mother was Joseph Lau’s ex-wife Theresa Po Wing-kam, who passed away in 2003.

The money was given to them in case the tycoon died and Lui wanted to take his family members to court for the money he left behind. The newspaper said the sum involved was understood to be HK$10 billion.

On Monday, Lui responded in a surprise statement that she had no desire to take her family matters to court amid speculation of a possible estate fight.

“Dr Lui wants Mr Lau to be assured that she has no desire to initiate any court proceedings against Mr Lau or anyone else and would prefer to live her life without the ongoing involvement of lawyers,” her statement read.

More recently, in response to Lau’s marriage registration, Lui told Apple Daily:“Of course I wish him happiness. Happiness is the best cure.”

According to barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung, whom the Post consulted, anyone who wishes to object to a planned marriage can do so within 15 days after the notice of intended marriage is issued.

“The law does not list exactly what arguments you need to object to the marriage. But it has to be reasonable – such as if the registrants are already married [to others],” Luk said.

He added that if Lau had written a will stating clearly who should inherit his fortune, then no one could argue that they should also get a share of the money if their names were not on the list.

“One possible argument is that you may say [Lau] was not clear-headed when he signed the will,” Luk said. “But then again, he has appeared on media interviews looking healthy.”