November 11, 2008 / 3:39 AM / in 9 years

Nina Wang swapped billions for eternal life: report

<p>Anthony Cheung, godson of Nina Wang, carries a portrait of Wang at a crematorium during Wang's funeral in Hong Kong April 18, 2007. REUTERS/Paul Yeung</p>

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Late Hong Kong tycoon Nina Wang, who died of cancer, signed over her fortune to a feng shui master after he promised her eternal life, according to a newspaper report on Tuesday.

Wang, formerly Asia’s richest woman, died in April last year, but the existence of two conflicting wills has complicated the inheritance of her estate, which media reports estimate to be more than $12 billion.

Tony Chan, a businessman and feng shui enthusiast, claims to be the sole beneficiary of Wang’s estate based on her last will, drafted in 2006 as she lay dying. But Wang’s family lays claim to an earlier 2002 will.

In the latest twist in the bitter legal dispute, a lawyer for Wang’s family accused Chan of duping Wang out of her fortune.

“We say (Tony Chan) lied to the deceased by telling her that performing certain fung shui practices -- including putting his name in her will -- would ensure that she would live forever, or at least a very long time,” the South China Morning Post quoted Barrister Geoffrey Vos as saying in Hong Kong’s High Court.

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice of divination, seeking to align natural energies to optimize good fortune or health. Many Hong Kong residents, rich and poor, swear by the practice, with some feng shui masters having an almost cult-like following and great influence over clients.

The court’s judge, Johnson Lam, responded that “this is a court of law, not a court of feng shui,” the newspaper reported.

An eight-week trial was expected to start after Easter next year, the paper reported.

Last December, a Hong Kong judge appointed an administrator to protect Wang’s estate, given the likelihood of a long court battle between Wang’s feng shui master and her family.

Wang was once ranked the 154th richest person in the world by Forbes magazine and nicknamed “little sweetie” for her signature pigtails and love of mini-skirts.

Wang won control of her late husband’s business empire in 2005 in a court case filled with tales of adultery, kidnapping and murder.

Reporting by James Pomfret, editing by Miral Fahmy

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