Rift between Hong Kong billionaire and secret lover over soured Macau casino deal laid bare in court
Lawyer reveals private exchanges between philanthropist Eric Hotung and Winnie Ho, sister of gaming tycoon Stanley Ho
A Hong Kong court was given a rare glimpse on Monday into private exchanges between billionaire Eric Hotung and businesswoman Winnie Ho Yuen-ki, his secret lover, in a legal battle over shares in a Macau casino operation.
The increasingly bitter letters centre on HK$2 million that the philanthropist allegedly handed to Ho on trust decades ago. He claims much of the money was spent on property overseas and is demanding its return plus any profits.
Hotung and his trust firm Lare Sare is suing Ho; Michael Hotung, Ho and Eric’s son born out of a wedlock; and Ho’s Moon Valley Inc.
On the first day of the case, the High Court heard how Ho purportedly invested the money in her brother Stanley Ho Hung-sun’s then fledgling Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) and Shun Tak Shipping Company shortly after he was granted a gaming licence in 1961.
But Ho claimed the sum was not given to her on trust and that she had since paid back about HK$1.6 million.
The first letter, revealed by Hotung’s counsel, Hylas Chung Yuen-foo, established his client’s intentions when giving the money to Ho to invest in STDM, which she used to set up Moon Valley.
Hotung said he wanted to split the proceeds from the investment equally among his heirs. But, he wrote, the money seemed to have been used for other purposes, including houses in Portugal, London and Los Angeles.
“I am quite shocked by Michael’s behaviour,” he also wrote, citing his son’s threat to take out an injunction against him and which had caused him to be investigated by Interpol in Geneva.
In reply, an angry Ho refused to accept flowers sent by Hotung due to remarks he had made to the press, details of which were not revealed in court.
She added: “Your defamatory remarks have caused me a great deal of pain and I now realise that you have never loved me.”
Ho said she had always been a shareholder in STDM in her own right and asked the philanthropist to stay away from Moon Valley. The philanthropist then said he was taking legal action against her.
The court also heard that when Hotung agreed to make the investment he did it via Ho because his grandfather, Sir Robert Hotung, was against his children’s involvement in gambling.
He was also not on good terms with Stanley Ho at the time, the court heard.
The philanthropist is now asking the court to declare that Ho held his property on trust and order her to transfer it back to him. He also claiming any profits deriving from the HK$2 million and the shares in STDM.
The case continues.