Peter Chan Chun-chuen secured special protection in prison yesterday after he was jailed for 12 years for what a judge described as shameless, cruel and extremely greedy conduct in forging the will of late tycoon Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum.
Chan, 53, a former fung shui master previously known as Tony Chan, was locked up in an individual cell in Stanley Prison after he apparently made a request for protection to the Correctional Services Department.
A department spokesman said individual cell arrangements were considered on the basis of offences and security levels.
On Thursday, Chan was found guilty by a Court of First Instance jury of forgery and using a false instrument. He attempted unsuccessfully to use the forged will to claim Wang's HK$83 billion estate as the sole beneficiary, in a drawn-out fight with the Chinachem Charitable Foundation, which Wang set up.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Andrew Macrae called Chan a "charlatan" and his act "the cruellest and most egregious of all" for taking advantage of a sad, lonely and tragic widow.
"Notwithstanding that you received during Mrs Wang's lifetime well over HK$3 billion, which enabled you to carry on a life of luxury few people in the world could ever imagine, you were not content with that and decided that you would have her business empire and estate as well," the judge said.
Chan's botched scheme to claim Wang's estate was "insidious, shameless, wicked" and displayed "unparalleled greed".
"Cruel, because by this forgery not only did you insult Nina Wang's friendship, but egregious because had you succeeded, you would have cheated a charitable foundation. I have no doubt from the evidence I have heard that you are nothing more than a clever and no doubt beguiling charlatan," the judge said, adding that Chan showed no remorse.
In sentencing, Macrae said Chan's crime was so serious that he found it appropriate to adopt the maximum sentence of 14 years' imprisonment as the starting point for each count.
But the judge decided to reduce his sentence by two years due to factors including the efficiency of Chan's lawyers, which cut the length of the trial to half of what had been expected.
The judge also ordered Chan to pay more than HK$2 million in costs incurred by the prosecution during a preliminary inquiry requested by Chan, an exercise that the judge called "wholly misconceived".
Before the hearing started, Chan, who looked tired after spending a night in custody, fought to hold back his tears in the dock.
He looked dazed as he heard the sentence. His wife, Tam Miu-ching, his brother Ricky Chan Chun-kwok and his daughter Polly Lon Pui-chun sobbed as the defence lawyers pleaded mitigation but later looked calm as they heard the sentence.
Chief Inspector Siu Wai-sing said: "We are very pleased about the result. It shows Hong Kong has a sound judicial system. It sends out a positive signal that deception will not be tolerated.
"[Chan] made changes to his legal team five times and once applied to conduct DNA tests overseas. The judge said all were attempts to delay court proceedings," Siu said.
Video: Peter Chan's brother and daughter are forced back by dozens of reporters outside the courtroom on Friday.