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Tue, Jul 10, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Family feuds over NT$7.5 billion fortune

STAFF WRITER

Members of a prominent and wealthy family are fighting for control of an inheritance worth more than NT$7.5 billion.

Ho Shou-shan (何壽山), the former CEO of Taiwan's leading paper manufacturer Yuen Foong Yu Group (永豐餘集團), died suddenly in January 1999 -- leaving behind an NT$7.5 billion inheritance.

But because of the abrupt nature of his death, Ho was unable to clearly outline how his fortune was to be divided among his survivors, leading to a dispute between the families of Ho's wife and his concubine.

Ho's wife Tsai Hui-shing (蔡蕙心) took the issue to court last year, suing Ho's concubine Chen Hui-mei (陳惠美) and demanding NT$2.4 billion of the inheritance.

The case, the first of its kind for Yuen Foong Yu, is setting new precedents in terms of the amount of money involved as well as the handling of the case under business law.

Ho Chuan (何傳) was the former CEO of Yuen Foong Yu. Upon his death in 1989, the CEO position and company assets were taken over by his eldest son, Ho Shou-shan, and the general manager position went to his second son, Ho Shou-chuan (何壽川).

Ho Shou-chuan is 16 years younger than his elder brother. While the brothers were both fathered by Ho Chuan, they have different mothers.

The handing down of the family's inheritance to the second generation was smooth compared to the war being waged over the inheritance left for the third generation.

After returning from his studies in the US, Ho Shou-shan married the daughter of Tsai Hui-shing, who is a member of one of Tainan's most respected families. Ho and Tsai had three daughters and a son.

Like most elderly businessmen, Ho had a concubine, Chen Hui-mei, with whom he had two sons. These children, though born out of wedlock, were accepted as part of the Ho family.

Tsai's legal argument for the NT$2.4 billion is as follows: after paying taxes and debts, an estimated NT$5 billion of the NT$7.5 billion will be left.

Because she was married to Ho, she is entitled to half of that. Under Taiwan's civil code, the rest should be evenly divided among the other members of the direct family, namely herself, her four children, and the two children Ho fathered with his concubine.

While Ho's wife is entitled to the largest share, the rest is to be divided between the other members of the family, including Ho's concubine, Chen.

Chen is vehemently opposed to Tsai's suggestion and thinks her children deserve more. She, personally, has no legal claim to any of the inheritance.

During the course of the court hearing, the two sides have always sat separately. When they meet in court, they exchange hostile remarks and cold looks.

Not only did Ho's death in 1999 bring about a colossal battle over the inheritance, it also brought to light his widow's insistence on paying no more than NT$500 million in taxes. The Tax Bureau has enlisted the help of the Ministry of Justice to collect the unpaid taxes from her.

In March, the Tax Bureau estimated the amount of inheritance tax on the NT$7.5 billion to be more than NT$3.4 billion. This, together with NT$500 million in unpaid taxes, would push the amount deducted from the NT$7.5 billion to NT$4 billion.

Ironically, two generations ago, Ho Chuan was quoted as saying, "Before birth and after death, I'll never pay a penny of tax."

Now that burden has been placed squarely on the shoulders of his wife.

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