Despite the recent ouster of former Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe, the African nation is pressing ahead with a legal battle he launched three years ago against a Taiwan-born South African businessman over a HK$40 million (US$5 million) villa in Hong Kong.
A pre-trial session at the city’s High Court on Wednesday, scheduled after the last mediation session in May 2015 proved unsuccessful, saw lawyers for both the Zimbabwe government and businessman Hsieh Ping Sung discuss arrangements for the trial with the judge, such as the legal issues involved and whether they would need interpreters.
With Robert Mugabe under house arrest, what happens with his dispute over HK$40 million Hong Kong villa?
Mr Justice Godfrey Lam Ho-wan asked if Hsieh would need an interpreter as it appeared he might speak mandarin.
His lawyers said having lived in South Africa for quite some time, he would be testifying in English.
The trial date, which had been arranged earlier, is on March 6.
The Zimbabwe government’s claim against Hsieh centres on a two-storey house in Tai Po, for which land records show Hsieh’s company Cross Global spent HK$40 million to purchase in June 2008.
Earlier media reports said Mugabe claimed the villa belonged to the government, and his daughter had been “borrowing” it, as she lived there while studying at City University.
But Hsieh reportedly claimed it belonged to him all along.
In 2014, the Zimbabwe government, then still led by Mugabe, lodged a lawsuit against Hsieh and Cross Global in the High Court, claiming that the businessman was merely holding the villa at JC Castle estate on trust.
It asked the court to declare it was the “100 per cent beneficial” owner of the villa, according to court documents.
Mugabe, 93, reluctantly stepped down last month after a controversial 37 years in power. While he once enjoyed international praise for bringing Zimbabwe to independence, he left office remembered for his autocratic rule and mismanagement of the economy. His resignation, which came after the military put him under house arrest, was celebrated by many Zimbabweans who were unhappy with how Mugabe had tried to position his wife Grace as his successor.
The new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who came from the same party as Mugabe, Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front, has since announced plans to stem graft and revive the moribund economy.
This article Zimbabwe presses on with lawsuit to claim HK$40 million Hong Kong villa from Taiwan-born businessman first appeared on South China Morning Post