A billionaire property tycoon has been ordered to cough up HK$1.2 billion to his ex-wife - further sealing Hong Kong's reputation as Asia's divorce capital.
It is believed to be the highest award given in open court in Hong Kong.
High Court Justice John Saunders ruled yesterday that Samathur Li Kin- kan, the son of billionaire Samuel Tak Lee, pay Florence Tsang Chiu-wing HK$1.22 billion - which represents 20 percent of the couple's assets when applying the "sharing principle."
Li and Tsang, a 38-year-old solicitor, who were married in 2000 and separated in 2008, lived "a lifestyle which was best described as just below that of a US- dollar billionaire," said the judge in his ruling.
Tsang's lawyer had suggested she should have 55 percent of the matrimonial assets and that a one-off payment of US$26 million (HK$202.8 million) offered by Li and his father was inadequate.
The court ordered the US$26 million be paid immediately, with the balance of HK$1.02 billion to bear interest if not paid within 90 days.
Saunders said: "The contributions of the husband and wife to the marriage partnership were equal."
The father had the right to recover gifts - including US$50 million he made to his son - as a factor in applying the sharing principle, the judge said.
The wife's "needs" include a HK$250 million Hong Kong property, a 2.5 million (HK$30.53 million) London property, HK$2.5 million to buy two cars, HK$5 million to buy a yacht and HK$4.6 million to join clubs in Hong Kong and England. She was given HK$215 million as a "Duxbury award" - a fixed sum for life.
As of March this year, Li was worth HK$6.42 billion, while his wife was worth HK$79 million. A separate fund of HK$26 million will be set up for their daughter, now three years old. The court ordered that Li and his father pay Tsang's court costs.
University of Hong Kong assistant law professor Eric Cheung Tat-ming said the Court of Final Appeal in November last year made a landmark ruling that Hong Kong is to follow England with "equal sharing" in divorce settlement cases.
"Given that ruling, it is not surprising the award is substantial," he said.
In the past, courts based their awards on a wife's "financial needs" to continue her way of life. "Because of the ruling it changed the whole landscape. It is not a hard and fast rule but it has implications for people who are very rich," Cheung said.
In last year's landmark ruling, the top court said that divorcing couples should receive an equal share of assets in most cases.
A three-judge panel ruled that a wife, from the mainland, was entitled to half of a couple's assets of HK$5.36 million at the end of their seven-year marriage - or HK$2.68 million.
The Court of Final Appeal overruled a 1990 decision that invoked "reasonable requirements" of a wife when handing down divorce settlements.
"To confine a non-working wife's award to the sum needed to meet her 'reasonable requirements' and to permit the husband to keep the remaining assets is patently unfair and discriminatory," the judges ruled.
William Mong Man-wai, the late chairman of Shun Hing Group, is believed to have paid his first wife, Serena Yang Hsueh-chi, a substantial sum after their divorce in 2002 as part of a court decision that was sealed.