A Hong Kong appeals court yesterday rejected a “thoroughly dishonest” claim by a bartender-turned-fortune teller to the estimated US$13 billion estate of his lover, late property tycoon Nina Wang (龔如心).
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 feng shui master Tony Chan (陳振聰) and a charity controlled by her siblings.
Chan, 51, said a will in his possession showed that Wang intended him to inherit her real estate empire, but the will was ruled a forgery a year ago, and the Court of Appeal also sided with the charity in rejecting his appeal.
“This court has no hesitation in dismissing this appeal,” a 46-page judgment issued yesterday said. “[Chan] has persisted in pursuing a thoroughly dishonest case. In doing so, he has abused the process of the court.”
The case grabbed headlines for months as the two sides battled for a fortune that once saw the pigtailed Wang dubbed the richest woman in Asia.
The appeals court backed Judge Johnson Lam’s (林文翰) decision in February last year to side with a handwriting expert who deemed Chan’s will a fake.
“That was not a conclusion reached lightly,” the appeals ruling said. “The judge was fully conscious of the seriousness of the matter and the implication of his findings.”
Shortly after Lam’s ruling last year, Hong Kong police arrested Chan on suspicion of forging the will, later releasing him on bail of HK$5 million (US$640,000).
The appeals court rejected arguments that Lam was influenced by his moral objections to a long-term affair between Wang and the married Chan.
“It would be surprising if the judge did consider [the affair] morally acceptable,” it said. “However, there is no ground for saying that colored his judgment.”
There was no immediate word from Chan — who was not in court yesterday — on whether he intended to take the case to Hong Kong’s top adjudicator, the Court of Final Appeal.
Nina Wang’s brother said he and his siblings were “very, very happy” with the ruling, and that “the court has spoken very clearly,” radio station RTHK reported.
The case has generated blanket media coverage in the territory, with Chan often cast as an unscrupulous charlatan who duped the billionaire.
From lowly beginnings, Chan built a career advising clients including Wang on feng shui, an ancient Chinese belief system based on harnessing natural and spiritual energies.
The Chinachem fortune has been ill-starred for years.
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 death in 2007.