- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

HONG KONG — Nina Wang, a pigtailed Hong Kong businesswoman who turned her slain husband’s fortune into a real estate empire that made her one of the world’s richest women, has died. She was 69.

Her spokesman Ringo Wong said Mrs. Wang died Tuesday. He did not describe the cause of death, but Hong Kong press reported that Mrs. Wang had ovarian cancer that spread to her liver and other organs.

Mrs. Wang’s rise to become Asia’s richest woman, according to Forbes Asia, had the plot elements of a Hollywood movie — sex, romance, crime and courtroom drama.

Born Kung Yu-sam in Shanghai, Mrs. Wang moved to Hong Kong in the 1950s with Teddy Wang, who founded the Chinachem Group pharmaceutical company.

Mr. Wang was abducted in 1990 as he left Hong Kong’s exclusive Jockey Club. The family paid a $33 million ransom but he was never returned.

Several of the kidnappers were caught and said that the 56-year-old Mr. Wang had been thrown into the sea from the sampan — a small Chinese boat — where he was held.

His body was never found and he was declared dead in 1999.

Mrs. Wang insisted that she thought Mr. Wang was alive and would someday return. He had been kidnapped seven years earlier and released for $11 million ransom.

In her husband’s absence, Mrs. Wang built Chinachem into a massive private property developer, with office towers and apartment complexes throughout Hong Kong.

Forbes magazine ranked her this year as the world’s No. 204 richest person, with a fortune of $4.2 billion.

Mrs. Wang captivated the public with her pigtails and garish, girlish outfits. She was nicknamed “Little Sweetie,” the Chinese name of a princesslike character from a Japanese fairy tale cartoon.

But Mrs. Wang’s standing came under threat when her father-in-law, Wang Din-shin, challenged her claim to his late son’s fortune.

Wang Din-shin, who is in his 90s, said he was the sole beneficiary of Teddy Wang’s estate, based on a 1968 will.

He questioned a will dated a month before his son disappeared, which left everything to Mrs. Wang. After a 171-day trial during which Wang Din-shin showed pictures of Nina Wang with a purported lover, a Hong Kong judge ruled in November 2002 that Mrs. Wang’s will was fake and she “probably” forged part of it.

Prosecutors charged her with forgery in January 2005 in a separate criminal case. She was released on $7 million bail, a record for Hong Kong at the time.

Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal later reversed the ruling giving the estate to her father-in-law, saying the signatures on the will appeared authentic.

Mrs. Wang was also cleared of forgery charges in December 2005.

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