Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless

The news coming out of Hong Kong today is the verdict of the Nina Wang battle of the wills.

Wang, once the richest woman in Asia, was chairwoman of Chinachem. Her nickname was Little Sweetie as the eccentric businesswoman usually wore her hair in pigtails and dressed in short skirts. She also claimed to live cheaply, buying cheap clothes and eating fast food.

She died in 2007 of cancer and after her death, her feng shui master and lover claimed he had her latest will that entitled him to her enormous wealth.

Tony Chan claimed he had her will dated in 2006 that would have given Wang's entire fortune to him that was estimated between $4 billion to $13 billion.

However, today Justice Johnson Lam ruled that the "feng shui" will was invalid, saying that he had forged her signature, and instead her estate would be handed over to the Chinachem Charitable Foundation from a will that was written in 2002. Her siblings manage this foundation.

She and her husband, Teddy Wang had set up the charity in 1988.

Her life with Teddy was also an epic drama. The pair were childhood sweethearts who married in 1955. They set up Chinachem Group, a real estate and development conglomerate and their wealth attracted a lot of attention. In 1983, the couple was kidnapped, but she was let go so that she could arrange Teddy's ransom.

However, in April 1990 he was kidnapped again. Nina gave half of the $60 million ransom demanded, but he was never seen alive again. There were stories that his body might have been dumped in Victoria Harbour, but it never surfaced.

She had a long protracted battle in the courts over ownership of Chinachem which she finally won in 2005 in Hong Kong Supreme Court after two lower courts had sided with her father-in-law Wang Din-shin. He had Teddy legally declared dead in 1999.

Nevertheless, the most recent court fight involving the feng shui master though seemed even more salicious than the previous one.

Chan had a spotty career as a former bartender, waiter, machinery salesman, market researcher, and computer parts exporter before becoming a feng shui master.

During the trial, a lot of information was revealed, how Nina and Chan met at a dinner in 1992 and how she hoped he could help her locate her husband. But then it led to them having an intimate sexual relationship to the point which he testified they were practically husband and wife. He claimed that she even gave him her signature pigtails were a sign of their intimacy, as well as digging holes in Chinachem sites around Hong Kong that had gems, statuary and ancient coins buried in them.

This not only revealed how gullible Nina was, but also the shameless manner in which Chan tried to get as much access to her wealth as posible. He testified that he was having a sexual relationship as his wife was pregnant with their first son.

But Wang's sibilings saw him as a boytoy -- who was 20 years younger than Nina -- or a eunuch in the court of an empress dowager.

In the end the court sided with her family.

"The court does not believe that their relationship was such that Nina was prepared to give him her entire estate irrespective of her other commitments and responsibilities," said a summary of Judge Lam's judgment.

"Giving him gifts or even large sums of money during Nina's lifetime when he made her happy is one thing. Making him her sole heir in respect of her entire estate is quite different."

Lam also added that Chan was not a credible witness and even lied in the court.

Chan's lawyer Jonathan Midgley says he will appeal.

So this may not be the end of the story, but perhaps the start of more stories of how gullible some wealthy people can be and how there are many schemers who will go to any lengths to get access to their wealth.

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