Nina Wang

Saga over Nina Wang's HK$83 billion fortune 'almost at an end'

Lengthy legal battles involving philanthropist's HK$83 billion legacy 'almost at last stage' as top court rules on foundation's role as trustee

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 2:45am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 May, 2015, 2:45am

Yesterday's ruling of the Court of Final Appeal is "almost the last stage" in a series of court battles over the legacy of Asia's richest woman Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum's HK$83 billion estate.

The top court gave the last word that the Chinachem Charitable Foundation would hold the estate as a trustee - able to spend it only for a specified purpose - and would not receive any part of it as an absolute gift.

Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe said in a 47-page judgment that the appeal was "the last stage, or almost the last stage" in contentious litigation concerning her will.

In a few months, the foundation and the secretary for justice, as directed by a panel of five judges, will appear before a Court of First Instance judge with their proposal as to the administration of the charitable trusts under Wang's will.

The protracted litigation over the will started with a probate case between Nina Wang, a well-known philanthropist, and her father-in-law, Wang Din-shin, over her husband Teddy Wang Teh-heui's fortune after he was declared dead in 1999 - nine years after he was kidnapped and never seen again.

Nina and Teddy Wang had married in 1955, and in the years that followed, they worked hard to expand the business of the Chinachem Group, which later became one of the largest property developers in Hong Kong.

Nina Wang, then the head of Chinachem Group, lost legal battles over her husband's will - in the Court of First Instance in 2002, and the Court of Appeal in 2004. But the proceedings took a surprise twist the following year as the Court of Final Appeal ruled that the handwritten will of Teddy Wang in 1990, naming his wife as sole beneficiary of his estate, was the last valid will.

Nina Wang died of cancer in 2007, triggering a new round of battles over the estate, this time between the foundation and self-styled fung shui master Peter (then called Tony) Chan Chun-chuen, who claimed to have been in possession of a will from her.

He was arrested in 2011 after a High Court judge ruled in the probate case that Chan had used a fake will and declared one held by the foundation to be genuine.

In the forgery trial, Chan, described by Mr Justice Andrew Macrae as a "charlatan", was jailed for 12 years for forging Nina Wang's will.

The Court of Appeal will hear his appeal against conviction and sentence in September.

In 2012, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung kick-started the latest proceedings concerning the legal questions as to the meaning and legal effect of her will, although the foundation was named as the principal beneficiary.

Yuen's duty as justice chief is to protect the interests of charities as they serve the public benefit or the common good.