(MENAFN - Arab Times) The former lover and fortune teller of quirky billionaire Nina Wang was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison after a Hong Kong court found him guilty of forging a will to claim her multibillion-dollar estate.
High Court Justice Andrew Macrae said Peter Chan's attempt to pass himself off as the beneficiary of Nina Wang's fortune, estimated by prosecutors at 83 billion Hong Kong dollars (10.7 billion), was "shameless, wicked and born of unparalleled greed." Wang, once Asia's richest woman, died in 2007 at age 69 after battling cancer. Hong Kong police charged Chan after a 2011 court ruling that a will purportedly leaving Wang's Chinachem Group to him was forged.
The legal battles over the will have enthralled the Chinese territory with their seamy mix of sex, big money and fraud allegations. Hong Kongers were riveted by juicy revelations of Chan's affair with Wang, who was two decades older than him. She was nicknamed "Little Sweetie" for her girlish outfits and pigtail hairdo.
Chan, a 53-year-old father of three, was convicted Thursday of forgery and using a false instrument. The judge sentenced him to 12 years on each count, to be served concurrently.
Chan is a former feng shui master who changed his name from Tony after converting recently to Christianity. In an attempt to prove that Wang and Chan's relationship was genuine, Chan's defense team showed videos in court last month of the pair kissing and caressing, according to media reports.
The judge said Chan was not content with the HK3 billion (387 million) that Wang had given to him while she was alive and decided to claim her business empire and estate as well.
"I have no doubt you are nothing more than a clever and no doubt beguiling charlatan," Macrae said in sentencing Chan, who rocked back and forth with a pained expression while his wife wept quietly in the public gallery. Macrae said Chan's forgery was especially egregious because had he succeeded, it would have prevented the estate from going as intended to a charitable foundation Wang and her late husband founded and cost it millions in legal fees. "Instead of benefiting mankind as Nina Wang wanted, the only one to benefit would have been you," the judge said.
In the earlier court ruling, a judge upheld another will bestowing the fortune on Wang's Chinachem Charitable Foundation. Wang inherited developer Chinachem after her husband was kidnapped in 1990. He was never found despite a 33 million ransom his family paid. She built the company into a huge property developer, with office towers and apartment complexes throughout Hong Kong.
The pair met in 1992 when Wang sought out a feng shui master to find her husband. Chan was already married and had a patchy resume as a waiter, bartender, machinery salesman and market researcher, making him an unlikely match for Wang.
The judge also ordered Chan to repay the estimated HK2 million (258,000) cost of a preliminary hearing that he said was a waste of time and money. Chan's lawyer declined to say whether he would appeal. Chan managed to get 30 million sterling from Wang when she was sick and fragile in the last two days of her life, the judge said, calling his behaviour "shameless" and "wicked". Hong Kong police investigators hailed the result.
"This shows that no matter how long we take, the Hong Kong judicial system will ensure that any culprit will be subject to the great hand of justice," Ho Pak-ling, an official of the Commercial Crime Bureau, told reporters outside the court. The sentence is the latest setback for Chan, who was ordered in March to pay HK340 million (43.8 million) in tax arrears, and has been hit by the long, costly legal battle for Wang's estate that he lost in 2011.
Chan, a former bartender and feng shui master, who once lived in a cramped public housing flat, changed his name from Tony after that ruling and converted to Christianity this year. In 2011, the High Court upheld a previous judgement that a 2006 will leaving Wang's entire estate to Chan was a forgery, and upheld an earlier will bequeathing her fortune to a charitable foundation run by her family.