Hong Kong judge rejects feng shui master’s claim to ex-lover’s multibillion-dollar estate

By Min Lee, AP
Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Feng shui master loses bid for ex-lover’s fortune

HONG KONG — The pigtail-wearing tycoon Nina Wang may have lavished her feng shui master lover with hundreds of millions during her lifetime to cure her cancer and improve her luck. But a Hong Kong judge ruled Tuesday that the woman who was once Asia’s richest never intended to leave him a multibillion dollar fortune.

The territory’s High Court said a 2006 will that names Tony Chan Chun-chuen as the sole beneficiary of Wang’s estate was forged. Judge Lam Man-hon instead awarded the money to Wang’s charity, relying on a 2002 will.

Wang died of cancer in April 2007 at age 69. Even before her estate became subject to a legal battle, the woman known as “Little Sweetie” was tabloid fodder: She wore miniskirts and pigtails well into middle age, was the model for a cartoon character and, after her husband died, carried on an affair with Chan, a married man 20 years her younger.

Adding to the intrigue was Chan’s patchy resume as a waiter, bartender, machinery salesman and market researcher — an unlikely match for Wang, who inherited the developer Chinachem Group from her husband, Teddy Wang, who was kidnapped in 1990. His body was never found.

At the trial over the competing wills, Chan testified he became involved with Wang when his wife was pregnant with their eldest son. He said she referred to him affectionately as “hubby pig” and that they genuinely loved each other, passing time by cooking, flying model helicopters — and practicing feng shui. Feng shui is the Chinese art of improving one’s fortunes by arranging objects and choosing dates.

Chan told the court that in 1992 he advised Wang to dig holes at her company’s properties to improve her luck. He also tried to use the art to prolong her life.

In the 326-page ruling issued on Tuesday, judge Lam described Chan as a scheming sycophant who forged Wang’s signature on a will to steal her empire.

“I do not find the defendant (Chan) to be a credible witness. I find he is prepared to say anything to advance his claim in this action,” Lam said.

Lam said that while he accepted that Chan and Wang had an intimate relationship, he believed Wang’s charitable instincts trumped her concern for Chan.

Mobbed by reporters as he left an office building with his lawyer, Chan said Tuesday he was disappointed with the ruling and plans to appeal.

“The truth will come out,” he said.

Meanwhile, Wang’s siblings celebrated, declaring that justice was served in the ruling against someone they described as a dishonest man who misled their sister.

“I believe my big sister is smiling up there,” Wang’s younger brother, Kung Yan-sum, said at a news conference.

Chan also could face prosecution. Forgery is a criminal offense in Hong Kong that carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison. Hong Kong police had no immediate comment on whether they would charge Chan.

In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked Nina Wang as the world’s No. 204 richest person with a fortune of $4.2 billion, but it is not clear how much her fortune is currently worth because Chinachem Group is a private company. Kung told reporters on Tuesday that Wang’s estate is worth “at least several tens of billions” of Hong Kong dollars (billions of U.S. dollars).

The ruling Tuesday adds to Wang’s already colorful story. Wang previously had had to fight her own probate battle. She inherited Chinachem Group only after an eight-year court case against her father-in-law, who accused her of cheating on his son when he was still alive.

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