Hong Kong's richest woman 'forged her husband's will'

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The Independent Online

Hong Kong's richest woman, Nina Wang, was formally charged yesterday with forging her late husband's will in an attempt to inherit his HK$1bn (£68m) estate.

Mrs Wang, 68, who is nicknamed "little Sweetie" for her trademark attire, appeared in court wearing a maroon jacket and black mini-skirt, to hear charges of forgery and perverting the course of justice.

This is the latest twist in a drama that began 14 years ago when Mrs Wang's husband, Teddy, a multi-millionaire property developer, was kidnapped outside the Hong Kong racecourse. Despite his family paying a ransom of £33m dollars he was never seen again and he was declared legally dead in 1999.

After her husband's disappearance, Mrs Wang took over the running of his company Chinachem Group, building it into one of Hong Kong's largest private companies and becoming one of the richest women in the world in the process. Last year Forbes magazine estimated her wealth at $2.3bn (£1.2bn).

But in 2002, after a hearing lasting nearly six months, a court ruled that a will that appeared to have been handwritten by Teddy Wang a month before his disappearance, leaving his entire fortune to his wife, had been falsified.

The court ruled that Mr Wang's estate should pass into the hands of his father, Wan Dinshin, but allowed Mrs Wang the right to appeal. A date has yet to be set for this hearing.

In the meantime, Mrs Wang and her father-in-law, who is now 93, have been locked in an acrimonious dispute over her late husband's millions in a saga of high finance, sex and deceit that has gripped Hong Kong society.

Mr Wang's original will, written in 1960, split his estate equally between the two parties. But in 1968, angry at his wife's alleged infidelity, he struck her out of the will and made his father the sole beneficiary. This is the will that is currently legally valid.

The 1990 will, which ended with the words "one life, one love", was declared a forgery by the judge who wondered why he should use those words when "the evidence before the court suggested Teddy was not a romantic person at all."

In a 576-page ruling, he decided that parts of the 1990 will had "probably" been written by Mrs Wang, who once boasted of her ability to forge her husband's handwriting. Mrs Wang was subsequently arrested on forgery charges, but later released.

The couple were childhood sweethearts who married in 1955. Mr Wang started in the chemical business and moved into property, financing many of the high-rise buildings of Hong Kong's famous skyline.

After Mr Wang's disappearance, his wife became famous both for her frugality - spending just a few hundred dollars a month on herself - and her grandiose business plans. The latter included a scheme for the world's largest tower block which, although dedicated to her missing husband, was to be called the Nina Tower. It was, however, never built because the proposed site was too close to an airport.

Mrs Wang, who did not enter a plea, was granted bail of HK$55m and was ordered to appear in court again on 23 March. In a statement, her lawyers said that she "now has the opportunity to establish her innocence in court".