HK fortune teller seeks tycoon's estate

A Hong Kong fortune teller launched an appeal on Monday against a court ruling denying his claim to the estimated ê13 billion estate of late property tycoon Nina Wang.

The case grabbed headlines for months as Tony Chan battled the eccentric billionaire's charity, now run by her siblings, for the huge real estate fortune that once saw the pigtailed Wang judged the richest woman in Asia.

Famous for her outlandish dress and thrifty nature, Wang died of cancer in April 2007 at the age of 69, triggering a bitter feud between Chan and the charity, with both claiming they were entitled to her estate.

Last February, High Court judge Johnson Lam ruled that a will in Chan's possession was a forgery, siding with the charity's claim to the estate based on another will.

Chan, a former bartender who said he was Wang's secret lover, held a series of odd jobs before starting a career advising clients on feng shui, an ancient Chinese belief system based on harnessing natural and spiritual energies.

At the start of the 10-day hearing on Monday, Chan's barrister Ian Mill argued that the judge in the initial hearing had misconstrued key evidence, including the testimony of a handwriting expert who deemed Chan's will a fake.

"The judge made fundamental errors in his approach in evaluating the evidence," Mill told the city's Court of Appeal.

"(He) was wrong in accepting there was sufficiently cogent evidence that it was a forged will."

Mill also argued that the judge had "disapproved" of Chan's secret relationship with the billionaire and that this had affected his judgment.

Chan's legal team played a video clip of a giggling Chan filming Wang posing for pictures beside a car.

"It's very important to consider the nature of the relationship between (the couple)," Mill said.

"(The couple) had an intimate and long relationship. He was her lover and confidant. They called each other nicknames and treated each other like husband and wife."

"It is clear that the judge disapproved of this relationship and this had coloured his judgment," Mill added.

The lawyer, who said Chan would have taken an "extraordinary risk for himself and his family" by faking a will, cast doubt on whether his client could have found a calligrapher skilled enough to pull off a forgery.

Shortly after the ruling, Hong Kong police arrested Chan on suspicion of forging the will, later releasing him on bail of HKê5 million (ê640,000).

The case gripped the former British colony and generated blanket media coverage, with Chan often cast as a charlatan who duped the billionaire by promising to find her kidnapped husband and cure her cancer.

Wang's husband Teddy, who started the Chinachem Group property empire, was abducted in 1990 and declared legally dead in 1999. His body has never been found.

His disappearance kicked off a heated legal battle between Wang and her father-in-law for control of the Chinachem Group. She eventually won the case just two years before her own death in 2007.

 

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