Hong Kong feng shui master loses battle for tycoon's fortune

A Hong Kong court on Tuesday threw out a feng shui master's claim for the estimated $13 billion fortune of late property tycoon Nina Wang after a sensational court battle.

High Court judge Johnson Lam said a will in the possession of Tony Chan was a fake, and ruled in favour of a rival claim to her estate by a charity now run by Wang's siblings.

"The court finds that the 2006 will was not signed by Nina," the judge wrote in his ruling on the case known as the "Battle of the Wills" that has gripped the tycoon-obsessed city.

Wang, an eccentric tycoon who at one stage was Asia's richest woman, died of cancer in April 2007 at the age of 69, triggering a bitter feud between Chan and the charity both claiming they were entitled to her massive fortune.

The judge ruled in favour of Wang's Chinachem Charitable Foundation, saying a 2002 will held by her siblings "truly reflected the long-held intention on the part of Nina to leave her estate to charity."

Chan's lawyers -- who could not be immediately reached for comment -- had previously warned that he could face criminal fraud charges if his will was deemed a forgery.

The case featured a heady mix of sex, family secrets and Wang's fascination with feng shui, an ancient Chinese system that claims to harness natural energies and is widely used by Hong Kong residents.

Wang, nicknamed "Little Sweetie," used fung shui in a fruitless bid to find her husband Teddy who was kidnapped in 1990 but whose body has never been found.

The probate case filled the front pages of Hong Kong's media for weeks after it first opened in May last year, with the court hearing from 36 witnesses.

The charity's lawyers accused Chan of being a charlatan who duped the eccentric billionaire, arguing that Wang did not have the mental capacity to execute the alleged will because of her health problems.

Lam acknowledged that Chan, 50, and Wang had carried on a love affair, but rejected his claim that she wanted him in charge of her sprawling property empire.

"When Nina made he 2002 will, her relationship with (Chan) did not cause her to give him her estate," he wrote.

"As far as her estate was concerned, she placed a higher regard on her charitable objectives than (Chan)."

Wang, the judge said, had wanted to keep the affair a secret.

"She wanted it buried together with her after her death," he wrote.

The famously frugal billionaire, known for wearing pig tails and miniskirts, won a separate legal battle with her father-in-law for control of her late husband's estate just two years before her own death.

The charity was named after the business empire Chinachem Group set up by her husband, who was declared legally dead in 1999.

Wang's thrifty nature -- she preferred cheap brands and fried chicken to designer clothes and five-star restaurants -- was widely documented by Hong Kong's media, which gave her the "Little Sweetie" nickname because of her resemblance to a Japanese comic character.

Unlike most residents in designer-obsessed and shopaholic Hong Kong, Wang rarely went to malls and had most of her clothes and handbags made by friends.

 

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