Hong Kong Court Battle for $12 Billion Nina Wang Estate Resumes

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Tony Chan, a feng shui master whose claim to the $12 billion estate of Nina Wang was rejected by a judge last February, asked an appeals court to overturn the ruling and award him the fortune.

Chan’s lawyer Ian Mill started the hearing today by showing a video of Chan teaching Wang, once Asia’s richest woman, how to start a car. Mill said the two addressed each other in “an intimate way.”

Chan said Wang left him the fortune following a 15-year relationship that began after he was hired to help Wang find her kidnapped husband. Hong Kong High Court Judge Johnson Lam ruled that the will benefiting Chan was a forgery and awarded the estate to a family charity foundation.

The dispute is the world’s largest probate fight, according to lawyers for the administrator of Wang’s estate, who value it at $12 billion. A three-judge panel of the Hong Kong Court of Appeal is scheduled to hear the case over the next 10 days.

Chan, who isn’t present at the hearing today, was arrested on suspicion of forgery following Lam’s ruling and freed on HK$5 million ($643,000) bail. Prosecutor Richard Turnbull said the justice department will consider laying charges against Chan based on the results of forensic testing being conducted on his 2006 version of Wang’s will.

Appeal Documents

Lam’s ruling was based on “irrational and unscientific” evidence, Chan’s lawyers said in the appeal documents. They said the judge was morally offended by Chan’s sexual relationship with Wang.

The dispute over the estate mirrors an earlier fight Wang waged for her husband’s fortune.

Wang won control of the estate in 2005 after Hong Kong’s highest court ruled she didn’t conspire to forge her husband’s will, overturning rulings by lower courts in 2002 and 2004 that gave the fortune to her father-in-law, Wang Din-shin.

Wang was also arrested during her dispute over the title to the property on charges she forged the will. Police dropped charges against her after the Court of Final Appeal’s ruling.

Wang, who died of uterine cancer at the age of 69 in 2007, had no children with her husband Teddy, whom she had married in 1955 at the age of 18.

The couple turned Teddy’s father’s Shanghai paint and chemical business into one of Hong Kong’s biggest closely-held real estate developers, with a portfolio including the Chinachem twin towers and Chinachem Exchange Square.

Kidnapped Twice

Teddy Wang was kidnapped in 1983 and again in 1990. He wasn’t returned after the second abduction after his wife paid part of the ransom. One of the captured kidnappers said Teddy Wang’s body was dumped into the sea from a small boat.

Nina ran Chinachem, the property company, using a power of attorney, insisting Teddy was alive. When her father-in-law had Teddy legally declared dead in 1999, she said Teddy had made her his heir in a new will signed just before his kidnapping.

Chan, who is married with three children, was hired by Wang in 1992 to help find her husband by using the Chinese geomantic practice of feng shui, according to Lam’s judgment. Chan dug holes at various sites owned by Chinachem for seven years, and received about HK$2.1 billion from her between 2005 and 2006.

Chan’s lawyers said the payments were to groom him for managing her fortune. Chan testified at last year’s trial that his sexual relationship with Wang began a month after they met.

Chan wasn’t a credible witness and was prepared to say anything to advance his claims, Lam said in his ruling that awarded the estate to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation Ltd., a charity run by Wang’s brother and two sisters.

The charity hasn’t received any funds from the estate because legal proceedings are ongoing, its lawyer Keith Ho said.

The case is between Chinachem Charitable Foundation Limited and Chan Chun Chuen and the Secretary for Justice, CACV62/2010 in the Hong Kong High Court of Appeal.

To contact the reporters on this story: Debra Mao in Hong Kong at dmao5@bloomberg.net; Kelvin Wong in Hong Kong at kwong40@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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