13 Oct 2017

Widow, ex-wife in estate dispute

8:55 pm on 13 October 2017

An Auckland judge will decide whether a widow should have control of her dead husband's estate after his ex-wife questioned their marriage.


Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Jun Xie died in a car accident in China in 2013 without a will and left behind millions of dollars, properties in New Zealand and China, and company shares.

His wife Huifeng Ye took over administration of his estate in New Zealand but that is now being challenged by his New Zealand based ex-wife Jie Deng.

In the High Court in Auckland today Ms Deng's lawyer told Justice Palmer the pair's divorce was not registered in China where he spent most of his time and argued the marriage to Ms Ye was invalid.

However Ms Ye's lawyer, Royal Reed, says there was a lot of disputed evidence and no matter the jurisdiction a divorce is a divorce.

Mr Xie and Ms Deng married in China in 1985 and moved to New Zealand a decade later.

Three years afterwards they separated and their marriage was officially dissolved in New Zealand but not registered in China.

Court documents show Ms Deng maintains the divorce was part of a business tactic and the pair continued to have a de facto relationship.

However, in 2004 Mr Xie started dating his colleague Huifang Ye in China and over the next nine years the couple held an unofficial marriage celebration, had a son and got married in Las Vegas in January 2013.

After his death, Ms Ye was granted administration of Mr Xie's estate by the High Court of New Zealand.

However, sometime after the accident Ms Deng transferred his 70 percent shareholding in a New Zealand based company to her name as well as signing authority of a British Virgin Island's bank account with a balance of over $5 million.

Ms Ye also alleges Ms Deng took control of two Chinese properties.

In response, Ms Deng alleges Ms Ye took $500,000 in personal possessions from her family home with Mr Xie in China, and unlawfully purported to remove seven directors of his company and appoint herself and her brother in their place under a new constitution.

Justice Palmer has reserved his decision.