A man suing an American admissions consultant for failing to get his sons into Harvard is the head of the Chow Sang Sang jewellery chain and a former adviser to the Hong Kong government.
Gerald Chow King-sing, executive director of Chow Sang Sang Holdings, a listed conglomerate in Hong Kong known for its jewellery stores, is seeking a refund of US$2.2 million that he paid in an education services agreement with consultant Mark Zimny to improve the propects of his two sons. Chow and his wife, Lily, accuse Zimny of fraud and breach of contract in lawsuit filed in a Massachusetts court.
Chow was an adviser to the government's Central Policy Unit between 2009 and last year, according to the 2011 Chow Sang Sang annual report.
A letter signed by a Harvard University official that had been filed with the court said Zimny was a visiting assistant professor in the university's graduate school of education until June 2005.
Lawyers for the Hong Kong couple said Zimny also described Chow as a "diamond king" in an e-mail.
A written educational plan stated that Gerald and Lily Chow wanted their sons to get into Harvard University, according to papers submitted to the District Court of Massachusetts. They had allegedly been told that some of the US$2.2 million would be donated to elite universities that would be seen as "greasing the admission wheels".
Zimny has denied the allegations in court papers, including the claim by Chow's lawyers that he referred to Chow as a "diamond king".
Chow's lawyers said it was evident that "Zimny viewed Mr Chow as a mark for his con game".
An Associated Press report published yesterday said Zimny agreed in 2007 to help the Chows' two sons, then aged 16 and 14.
He would provide tutoring to the two children while they attended American preparatory schools, and offered to "grease the admission wheels", funnelling donations to elite colleges while also investing on the Chows' behalf, the report said.
The report said Zimny had warned the Chows against giving donations directly to schools, according to the lawsuit. "Embedded racism" had made development offices wary of Asian donors, he allegedly advised them, and that it would be better to use his company as a middleman.
Chow described himself as the vice-chairman of Chow Sang Sang Holdings in another e-mail.
A spokesman for Harvard said yesterday it had no comment on the matter, as it was not a party in the case.