Sat, Sep 17, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Hong Kong heiress wins control of business empire

AFP , HONG KONG

Asia's richest woman yesterday won an eight-year legal battle with her father-in-law for control of her dead husband's multibillion-dollar real estate empire.

Nina Wang, a charismatic businesswoman known for her colorful wardrobe and unusual haircuts, won a unanimous ruling from Hong Kong's five-member Court of Final Appeal granting her the US$3.5 billion Chinachem conglomerate.

The judges overturned a lower court judgment that she had forged the will of her husband, Teddy Wang Teh-huei, shortly before he was kidnapped in 1990 and vanished without a trace.

They ruled there was no real cause for suspicion that the document was a fake, as her 94-year-old father-in-law Wang Din-shin had claimed throughout the eight-year legal saga.

The case featured all the stuff of TV melodrama, with kidnappings, allegations of infidelity and mystery attacks, that kept the story of the bitter family dispute bubbling on the front pages of Hong Kong's newspapers.

Teddy Wang was kidnapped in 1990 but although the family paid US$60 million in ransom, he was never seen again. His body was never found, and he was legally declared dead nine years later.

Nina Wang had long insisted her husband was still alive and would someday return to her.

The case turned on one key issue, whether the 1990 will naming her as the sole beneficiary was a forgery. Two other wills were presented in court.

Wang was dubbed "Little Sweetie" by local media for her trademark pigtails and is famous for her frugality. She spends just HK$3,000 per month.

Forbes magazine this year estimated Nina Wang's personal fortune at US$3.1 billion, 188th in their ranking of the world's richest people.

She reportedly receives regular death threats and has a team of 50 bodyguards watching over around the clock.

Thursday night, her brother Kung Yan-sum -- who testified on her side -- was savagely beaten by four men with wooden bats in Hong Kong. His dog was also assaulted.

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