Appeal underway in Nina Wang estate dispute

Judge raps Chan silk for remarks
Natalie Wong
January 12, 2011
The Standard

A lawyer for fung shui master Tony Chan Chun-chuen was rebuked by an appeal judge yesterday for attacking the credibility of a key witness in the original probate hearing for the late Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum’s Chinachem fortune.

Chan’s barrister, Ian Mill, insisted that solicitor Winfield Wong Wing- cheung, a witness for Chinachem Charitable Foundation, was not trustworthy.

Mill also criticized High Court Justice Johnson Lam Man-hon for basing his ruling on the “unreliable evidence” of the solicitor when he denied Chan’s claim to Wang’s estimated estate of HK$100 billion last February.

Wong, one of two witnesses who signed a 2006 will that Chan – who was not in court yesterday – claims entitles him to Wang’s estate, said he had forgotten many of the details.

“Wong could not recall how many pages there were in the will. He couldn’t recall which paragraph contained the specific bequest and even the language used,” Mill said.

He said it was bizarre that Wong, with years of experience in probate matters and wills, had misread the identity card number of his client as a bequest for a specific sum of money.

Court of Appeal Vice President Anthony Rogers said Mill could question the witness’s memory but not his credibility. Justice Rogers also told Mill not to interrupt when the judges were speaking in court. Justice Rogers also criticized Mill for repeating his arguments. Mill said he wished to highlight the unfairness of the lower court in relying on unreliable evidence when deciding in Chinachem’s favor.

The High Court had ruled Wong’s inaccurate descriptions were because “he only had a quick glimpse” of the will. Mill said Justice Lam may have reached a different conclusion had he summoned the charity’s previous lawyer, Ramesh Sujanani, who spent five hours talking to Wong prior to his court appearance.

Chan is seeking to overturn Lam’s ruling that he did not believe the late chairwoman of Chinachem Group would give away her entire estate to Chan, 51, out of love.

Mill argued that rather than her siblings who now run the charity, Chan was a natural candidate as the eccentric billionaire, who died in April 2007 from cancer at age 69, had confidence in Chan becoming her heir going by telephone recordings made in 1997 and 1998.

“[The evidence] showed how much trust Wang had in my client in her business decisions … She didn’t make her mind up until she spoke to him,” he said.

The hearing continues today.