An elderly multimillionaire claimed benefits from the Social Welfare Department by saying he was a penniless artist, a court heard yesterday. Chiu Lai-kin, an officer from the department, testified in the Court of First Instance in a probate hearing involving a $180 million fortune left by Choi Ching-man. Ms Chiu said Choi had applied for Comprehensive Social Security Assistance in July 1995. In the application, Choi said he was an artist and did not disclose his share holdings. Asked by Mr Justice David Yam Yee-kwan how the department checked the wealth of applicants, Ms Chiu said it basically relied on the applicants' own declarations. 'We would ask what valuables the applicants possessed and we would trust what they said. For applications that looked suspicious, we would refer them to a special investigation team to look into the matter,' said Ms Chiu. Staff members who made visits to Choi's flat in Wan Chai were satisfied the old man, who they said told them he lived alone, qualified for help. Ms Chiu said the department was shocked after Choi's extraordinary wealth was revealed after he died. Choi had obtained more than $20,000 in assistance up to his death, at the age of 72, in August 1996. Elsa Mok Han-won, 62, obtained $10,700 from the department to subsidise Choi's funeral expenses, the court heard. Choi left a fortune including bank deposits, shares and a Wan Chai property. Ms Mok, who claims she was Choi's live-in lover, and Cai Guoxiang, who claims to be Choi's sole surviving brother, are contesting the estate. In previous testimony, Ms Mok said she had been Choi's common-law wife for 10 years. She said Choi had left her his estate in a signed will written on a bank slip. The hearing continues today.