HK comedian Stephen Chow, accused of denying investment commission to ex-lover, says monetary gift was meant only as ‘expression of love’

27-Nov-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

“King of Comedy” Stephen Chow Sing-chi was all serious when he took centre stage in a Hong Kong court on Wednesday to defend against a HK$70 million (US$9 million) claim in investment commissions demanded by an ex-girlfriend.

Alice Yu Man-fung had testified about an oral agreement with her then boyfriend Chow spelled Chiau in court documents in 2002 for him to pay her 10 per cent of the profits on his investments as commission for her help, on top of her monthly wage of HK$20,000 as his personal financial consultant.

Her counsel, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung SC, said she had rendered assistance in Chow’s movie business and personal affairs and even quit her job to work full-time for him, while they were dating between 1997 and 2010, in light of his busy schedule as a prolific actor and filmmaker.

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Chow, 58, does not dispute that there was an offer to share profits, but his defence counsel Bernard Man SC questioned the legal effect of this verbal promise made between lovers on a happy occasion.

Chow testified he was the one who offered the 10 per cent as a monetary gift “out of love” as they were chatting while overlooking the city’s high-rises from his balcony on The Peak one night after dinner in 2002.

“We took some wine and had a good time,” he testified through an interpreter. “I also talked about my ideas for property investments and she very much believed me, trusted me, supported me, and that was why I said to her I would give her 10 per cent as a gift.”

His testimony drew a flock of reporters and even more members of the public to the High Court to catch the comedian’s rare appearance, prompting the judiciary to arrange a live telecast so that more people could watch from the lobby while observing social-distancing rules.

But Chow shied away from the crowds and cameras, entering the court building undetected, taking breaks in a dark corner room and joining his legal team for lunch in an area reserved for lawyers in the court canteen.

The movie icon, best known for his slapstick humour, said he began his career in the television and film industry in the early 1980s upon graduation from secondary school.

He starred and adopted a hands-on approach in producing and directing numerous blockbusters that included King of Comedy, Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle and CJ7.

His elder sister, May Chow, said in a statement that he “values his time out of the spotlight very much” and “does not like others probing into his personal affairs”.

She also revealed that he enjoyed dining out and viewing properties with people he trusted, and observed that Yu was “the ideal candidate” as she could afford the time.

Chow agreed but added that he also enjoyed going out alone.

He said his romantic relationship with Yu began around 1998 and that she started helping him about two years later, with no experience in movie matters or property investments.

“She herself liked it,” he said. “I think she wanted to help me because she was my girlfriend.”

He acknowledged there was a written agreement dated April 1, 2012 for his company to engage Yu’s services for HK$20,000 (US$2,600) a month, but denied that it had any connection with the profit-sharing offer or that he had asked her to quit her higher-paid job.

As for profit sharing, he explained in a witness statement: “My original intention was to give Ms Yu a monetary gift as an expression of love. Not as remuneration, let alone a legal contract.”

Yuen asked: “Did it ever occur to you that it would be quite odd to give money to show your affection to your girlfriend?”

“Not odd,” Chow replied while shaking his head.

Chow’s testimony continues before Justice Russell Coleman on Thursday.


Category: Hong Kong

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