HONG KONG (Reuters) - A Hong Kong judge on Friday jailed a former lover of late billionaire tycoon Nina Wang for 12 years for forging a will naming him the sole heir to one of Asia’s largest fortunes, estimated at $4 billion.
Justice Andrew Macrae delivered the sentence on Peter Chan, formerly known as Tony Chan, in the city’s High Court a day after a jury found him guilty on charges of forgery and using a forged document. Chan had pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Sentencing Chan to 12 years on each charge, to be served concurrently, Macrae highlighted the “shameless and unparalleled greed” at the heart of a “well-executed and planned” crime, that saw Chan exploit his relationship with Wang to obtain large amounts of her money in her final years.
“Never once ... have you shown the slightest remorse for your conduct,” the judge said. “You took full advantage of her sadness, loneliness and tragic life.”
As the sentence was handed down, Chan, dressed in dark suit and white shirt and flanked by three guards in the dock, stared solemnly at his wife in the public gallery, and nodded slowly.
His wife had sobbed throughout the hearing, covering her mouth with a small handkerchief.
The judge also ordered Chan to pay more than HK$2 million ($257,900) for legal costs the prosecution incurred in a preliminary inquiry the latter had requested.
Chan’s lawyer and wife made no immediate reply to queries whether he would appeal against the judgment.
The proceedings had transfixed Hong Kong with revelations of adultery and bizarre rituals associated with “feng shui”, a Chinese philosophy meaning “wind-water”, aimed at creating harmonious surroundings and harnessing natural energies.
The 53-year-old father of three also described in court how he had enjoyed a passionate sexual relationship with the billionaire heiress, who was more than 20 years his senior.
Judge Macrae said Chan was tarnishing Wang’s good name and reputation by making himself her sole beneficiary and diverting the money from her charitable foundation to himself.
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 behavior “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.
Known as “Little Sweetie” after a favorite Japanese manga cartoon character, Wang was one of Asia’s wealthiest women, with a business empire including the Chinachem Group, Hong Kong’s largest private property developer. She died of cancer in 2007, aged 69.
The petite Wang, known for her braided pig-tails, mini-skirts and beloved pet dogs that she took to boardroom meetings, inherited most of her wealth from her husband, Teddy, who was kidnapped in 1990 and never seen alive again, despite the payment of a $33-million ransom.
The sentence is the latest setback for Chan, who was ordered in March to pay HK$340 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 judgment 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.
Editing by James Pomfret and Clarence Fernandez