Saturday, 3 December 2011

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

In the last few weeks we have had a glimpse into the lives of the super rich in Hong Kong thanks to an ex-wife demanding more money to keep her lifestyle after her divorce in 2008.

There were riveting tales of how Florence Tsang Chiu-wing needed money to buy property in Hong Kong and London, cars in Hong Kong and London, have enough to join clubs in both places and raise a three-year-old daughter.

Her ex-husband Samathur Li Kin-kan and his father Samuel Tak Lee opposed the claim, saying her demands were outrageous. They also alleged Tsang tricked Li into having a baby as he refused to have children, but then the marriage further soured when he was later discovered having an affair.

Since Tsang, 38, had the daughter, Li has only seen the girl twice and does not want to be involved in her life.

It seemed like a tit-for-tat case until it was revealed the father and son had conspired to move virtually all of the latter's assets into the former's domain so that the ex-wife could not get her hands on his assets.

"My father is the only one looking after me," Li said in court. "If I pick a fight with him, I would... be on the street. I have no other choice, so to speak."

According to Justice John Saunders, their forged loan agreement may be considered criminal conduct and has now referred the case to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a criminal investigation.

The court heard how Li spent more than HK$100 million on himself a year. At one point he owned a Boeing business jet, two yachts, 28 cars and millions of dollars worth of wine, among other things, while Lee is the head of Prudential Enterprise, which has real estate around the world and owns the Prudential Hotel in Jordan.

One can see the spurned woman trying to clean out her ex-husband, but at the same time the father and son trying to outwit her by transferring the assets.

In weighing judgment, Judge Saunders ruled in favour of Tsang and gave her more than double the amount she estimated she would need to fund the lifestyle she had while she was married.

So instead of the HK$524 million she asked for, she was awarded HK$1.2 billion ($157 million). The breakdown is HK$250 million for property in Hong Kong, HK$30 million for a London property, HK$2.5 million for two cars in Hong Kong and another HK$1 million for a vehicle in London, HK$5 million for a yacht and HK$4.6 million to join clubs in both Hong Kong and England.

The numbers are completely mind-boggling for most of us, but for the rich, these are just their daily expenses.

As for Tsang, a solicitor, she flashed a billion-dollar smile outside the court. "I'm delighted that the proceeding has now concluded."

It's a major windfall the rest of us can only dream of.

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