Taiwan group bids for cash from sale of WTCG shares
UNKNOWN investors, believed to be from Taiwan, have stepped forward to try to claim about $400 million that have been in a court bank account for nearly two years.
They have started legal action on the grounds that they are the true owners of nearly 200 million shares in the World Trade Centre Group (WTCG) that were frozen in 1993 when an inspector appointed by the Financial Secretary could not find out who owned them.
The shares were sold, and the cash raised will be held by the court until the owner is found.
A solicitor with a Hong Kong law firm confirmed he had been employed to represent 'certain claimants who claim that the shares belong to them and the proceeds should be paid to them'.
At least two Queen's Counsel and other barristers have been hired. It is believed the costs will be borne by the Government if the claim is successful.
The shares were originally registered to companies Commercial Success, Killeny and La Fayette.
The claimants won a hearing presided by a registrar in chambers, but the Attorney General has appealed.
The Attorney General's office said insufficient evidence had been produced to prove the claimant was the rightful recipient of the cash.
Uncertainty surrounding the share ownership began in June 1990, when casino mogul Stanley Ho and Taiwanese tycoon David Tong Cun-lin took control of Australian Alan Bond's Hong Kong-listed operation, Bond Corp International.
The company has since been reincarnated twice, as World Trade Centre Group and as Top Glory International Holdings.
Ownership of the shares was crucial because under the terms of the deal by which Mr Bond gave up control of the group, interests linked to the new owners could only take up less than 35 per cent of the shares.
Undertakings were given that the three companies were not linked to the company's new management.
Otherwise, the new owners would have to make a general offer at a potential total cost of $3 billion.
Mr Tong has told inspector John Lees during inquiries that 'Dr Ho told me that these people [the three companies] were his friends'.
However, Mr Ho has told the same inspector: 'I have told you before and I am telling you once more, I have never heard of these firms.' Since then, ownership of the shares has been unclear, which led to action being taken under the Securities (Disclosure of Interests) Ordinance, which allows an inspector to intervene if shareholders refuse to identify themselves.