Hutchence family claims share of pounds 10m

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The Independent Online
THE STEPSISTER of Michael Hutchence, the singer who killed himself in a Sydney hotel room a year ago today, has arrived in Queensland to gather evidence in an attempt to prove her entitlement to a share of millions of pounds' worth of assets.

Tina Hutchence has filed documents in the state's Supreme Court detailing an elaborate subterfuge she carried out on a local real estate agency which was selling a piece of land she believes was bought with proceeds from her brother's lucrative career with his band, INXS.

Posing as a wealthy Canadian investor seeking to build a retail complex on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, she persuaded the agent to divulge the name of the vendor. The British company, Nextcircle, is one of eight respondents to her court action over the Hutchence estate.

Ms Hutchence and her mother, Patricia Glossop, are in dispute with the sole executor, Hong Kong tax lawyer Andrew Paul. The women say as much as pounds 10m worth of assets are salted away in various trusts and holding companies around the world. Mr Paul's side puts the estate's net assets at less than pounds 500,000.

According to the court documents, Ms Hutchence was told by the agents that the price of the land - around pounds 600,000 - was low because the owners "just want to get their money out of the country". A judge subsequently ordered Nextcircle to be restrained from selling the commercial site until further notice.

Documents obtained for her from Companies House in Cardiff link Mr Paul with Nextcircle. It is owned by two other companies registered in the Virgin Islands, for which Mr Paul is allegedly a registered signatory.

Lawyers for Ms Hutchence, who lives in California, say the land is one of a number of assets, including a pounds 500,000 London house and a pounds 1m villa in France, which should have been included in the singer's estate and divided according to his will.

Mr Paul's Brisbane lawyer told the court that the assets belonged to a complex array of trusts in Australia, Britain, Jersey, France, Hong Kong and the Virgin Islands, and had never been the singer's property. But correspondence in the court file also has the tax lawyer consulting him over renovations to the London house and maintenance of a vintage Aston Martin sportscar. The letters take some explaining, Ms Hutchence feels, if the house and car did not belong to her brother.

The court action is one of a number of running battles in what has become, even by rock industry standards, a messy and highly disputatious legacy from a star cut off in his prime.

Half the estate is earmarked for the singer's daughter by his common law wife, Paula Yates. Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily is to receive half her share on her 25th birthday, with the rest to come in the following five years.

Who is to be in charge of her in the meantime is also at issue. The singer's father, Kell Hutchence, who lives in Sydney, has applied for a custody order, saying Ms Yates is not a fit mother. Shunning the public eye, she has had a traumatic year, including a suicide attempt and a spell in a drug rehabilitation clinic, where she struck up a relationship with a fellow patient.

The developments led Mr Hutchence to launch his attempt to gain custody of his grand-daughter. For their part, INXS have shown every sign of being at a loss without their leader. Virtually inactive over the past year, the band performed last weekend for the first time since Hutchence died, at a festival in Melbourne.

The rocker would have been aghast at finding himself the centre of a classic story of the dark side of rock'n'roll. According to his biographer, Glenn Baker, he retained a sense of proportion about his celebrity. "Michael was quintessentially Australian in his ability not to take himself as seriously as, say, an American rock star," he said.

As soon as the money is released from his estate, the first two beneficiaries will be Greenpeace and Amnesty International, which will share about pounds 300,000. How much will remain to divide between the rest of his family is less clear. The costs of the court proceedings will come from the estate and, in the words of Mr Paul's lawyer, Joe Ganim: "It is likely to be a difficult, time-consuming and expensive task."

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