Brother taken to court over 1947 statement

A retired banker and philanthropist's son-in-law is facing a private prosecution for perjury 52 years after he allegedly committed the offences.

Lo Hung-kwan, 77, has been taken to court by his sister Lo Siu-yin, 78, who wants him convicted of swearing a false statement in July 1947 to secure letters of administration of their late mother's estate.

Mr Lo, as the sole surviving man in the family, claimed to be the only eligible next-of-kin of Lo Yu-shi, who died without leaving a will on July 15, 1946. She was 68.

The size of the estate was not revealed but was substantial - Ms Lo once demanded $215 million from her brother, a former director of Hang Seng Bank, to end the dispute.

Mr Lo retired from the post this April and is the son-in-law of the late Ho Sin-hang, the bank's founder who died in December 1997.

Mr Lo's lawyer, Cheng Huan SC, yesterday urged Magistrate Josiah Lam Wai-kuen to halt the prosecution.

'This is a somewhat bizarre case that occurred more than 52 years ago,' Mr Cheng told Western Court.

The long lapse of time, coupled with the death of a key witness, made it 'fair and just' to stop the proceedings, Mr Cheng said.

He also complained Ms Lo had twice promised not to challenge her brother's status as the only next-of-kin as both thought Qing Dynasty law applied, by which males were the only heirs to an estate.

Events took a twist in 1989 when Ms Lo was told by her dying common-law husband that he had conspired with her brother to make the 'false' statements, the court heard.

She did nothing until 1993, when she demanded money from him. He gave her $4.5 million the same year, Mr Cheng said.

But the sister threatened criminal proceedings against him in August 1995 unless he paid her $215 million, the court heard.

In 1996 they reached a settlement, with Mr Lo paying his sister $8 million.

But after she received the final instalment in March 1997, she took the matter to the ICAC and police, Mr Cheng said.

The Department of Justice refused to bring criminal charges, so Ms Lo took out four private summonses in April this year, leading to yesterday's prosecution.

Her lawyer, Richard Wong Tat-wah, will address the court tomorrow.