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Trial starts in 'Little Sweetie' will battle

A LAWYER questioned the authenticity of a will leaving the multibillion dollar estate of Asia's richest woman to a feng shui adviser in opening statements in Hong Kong High Court yesterday.

The lawyer works for a charity that seeks to inherit Nina Wang's fortune in a competing will. The trial will rule which document - one that left her estate to her Chinachem Charitable Foundation Ltd or another that left it to businessman Tony Chan Chun-chuen - is legitimate. Wang died of cancer in April 2007 at age 69.

The relationship between the late real-estate tycoon and Chan was unclear.

The foundation's lawyer has said Chan claims he was romantically involved with Wang, but his publicists declined to comment on their relationship.

Denis Chang, who is representing the foundation started by Wang and her late husband, said handwriting experts found "very strong evidence" that the alleged signature on the Chan will was fake, and that a supposed witness to the will said he saw Wang sign a document that gave HK$10 million (US$1.3 million) to Chan but not her entire estate.

The lawyer said the 49-year-old Chan worked as a bartender and a computer parts dealer before becoming a celebrity consultant on feng shui - the Chinese art of improving fortunes by timing and the layout of objects.

He noted that a July 2002 will that left Wang's fortune to the foundation and honored the legacy of Teddy Wang was in keeping with her affection for her late husband, Chang said, adding that the will went through five drafts.

Her husband was abducted in 1990, and despite the family paying US$33 million in ransom, he was never released and his body never found. He was declared dead in 1999, but she never believed he was dead.

Nina Wang - known in Hong Kong as "Little Sweetie" for her girlish outfits and pigtails - inherited her husband's fortune after an eight-year court battle against her father-in-law, Wang Din-shin.

She went on to build her husband's company, Chinachem, into a massive property developer, with office towers and apartment complexes throughout Hong Kong.

In 2007, Forbes magazine ranked her as the world's No. 204 richest person with a fortune of US$4.2 billion.


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