The saga of a billionaire who claims he was left penniless by a long and bitter battle with his ex-wife is too compelling to be barred from public scrutiny, a judge said yesterday. '[The ex-husband] has so many hurdles to overcome and so many mountains to climb that he is entitled at least to be given public and open scrutiny, [and assurance] that this long and difficult matrimonial financial trial will be conducted fairly, justly and according to the law,' Mr Justice William Waung Sik-ying said yesterday in the Court of First Instance. 'The particular circumstances of this case are so compelling that I feel that I would have failed in my duty were I not to order an open- court trial.' The case revolves around a $1 billion claim over property and money once jointly owned by Yip Ku-cheung and his ex-wife Kwan Kuk-lin. Mr Yip says he is representing himself because he cannot afford lawyers. Both are making claims against each other for lump sums or the transfer of properties, while another application is being made by Mr Yip over properties held in trust by his ex-wife. The trial is set for January 13. Mr Justice Waung said: 'The petitioner [Mr Yip] is conducting the trial in person against a leading counsel and powerful legal team. 'He is acting in person and has no knowledge of English, when some 40 bundles [of legal documents] are in English.' Married in China in 1958, the couple and their four sons and daughter moved to Hong Kong in the 1960s. Ms Kwan built a property empire on money from her husband's successful electroplating business, and the family was very wealthy by the early 1990s, the judge said. About that time, Mr Yip was said to have started seeing a 'lady friend' and the marriage broke down. In 1993, Ms Kwan and her daughter set up two trusts which effectively gave Ms Kwan sole control of the family empire. Mr Yip's daughter then persuaded her father to sign away his interests to the trusts, and a divorce was finalised early this year. 'A long, bitter and expensive history of litigation' ensued over ownership of companies and properties. Mr Yip claims his wife has left him in debt to the tune of millions of dollars.