Family saga ends as $24m gift returns

AN 81-year-old man, said to be suffering from senile dementia when he gave $24 million worth of property to one of his nine children, had it returned yesterday.

And in keeping with the extraordinary circumstances of the gift, signed over to his 43-year-old daughter Ms Chan Wai-chun on a Tsim Sha Tsui bus, she decided to give it back during an emotional family yum cha on Saturday.

In a case described by one counsel as ''an everyday story of Hongkong folk'', plaintiff Mr Chan Man-yee agreed to withdraw allegations of fraud, deception and impropriety against his daughter in an out of court settlement.

Mr Neville Sarony, QC, announced the deal before Mr Justice Jones in the High Court yesterday after a five-day hearing.

The Chan family, said by eldest son Peter, 51, to be normal and happy, was plunged into a major row when the fifth sibling, Wai-chun, claimed that their father had given her his most expensive asset - commercial property at 28 Marble Road, North Point.

Peter claimed it had always been the understanding that their father's estate would be divided equally between the children.

Then the court battle began - with Wai-chun and the two youngest children, Arthur and Sylvia on one side, and Peter and the other five on the other.

Mr Chan claimed he was induced to sign over the property by some form of trickery while Wai-chun said it was always his intention to give it to her.

Because of Mr Chan's condition, a receiver was appointed yesterday to manage his financial affairs.

Dr Chung See-yuen, who saw Mr Chan on July 30, 1990, was that he was suffering from senile dementia with classical symptoms. There was intellectual impairment and he was not capable of giving logical instructions.

It was the doctor's view he did not understand documents he was asked to sign.

Dr William Green said he asked the plaintiff if he had been to Malaysia and Thailand, where the deed of gift was prepared by a Hongkong solicitor while Mr Chan was on holiday, and was told he had never been to either place. He also thought the plaintiffwas demented and incapable of decision making.

Dr John Simon concluded that Mr Chan's condition was irreversible.

Looking relieved at the end of the court hearing, Peter said he would welcome Wai-chun and the others back into the family.

Sad that the family name had been dragged through the courts, he said: ''I still love all my brothers and sisters.'' The circumstances leading to the deed of gift occurred in 1990. In June 1989, his second wife, and mother to the nine children, died. She used to manage and collect the rent from the North Point property estimated now to be worth about $130,000 a month.

After her death, Wai-chun managed the property. Worried that their father might marry his mistress, the children sent him on holiday to Australia to see Peter, who was living there after marrying an Australian girl.

Following a row between Peter and Sylvia, she took her father first to Malaysia and then on to Thailand. While there, Arthur arranged for a solicitor's clerk, Mr Henry Chiu, to prepare the deed of gift.

Mr Chiu flew to Thailand where the deed was signed and dated May 13, 1990, although the ailing Mr Chan had earlier told the court he signed it while on a Tsim Sha Tsui bus.

On his return to Hongkong, Mr Chan was taken to the law firm where he signed a confirmation of the deed in the presence of a solicitor.