A wealthy couple are locked in a court row with their “sneaky little prick” of a nephew after claiming he “stole” their £4 million home in a famous millionaires row.
Michael Lee, 79, and his wife King-Su Huang, 73, became neighbors of Chariots of Fire producer Sir David Puttnam when they bought a three-bedroom house in a lane in Kensington, west London, near the Royal Albert Hall.
But the house was bought in the name of their “very close” nephew, Cheng-Jen Ku, 40, and now the couple are locked in a bitter legal battle over who is the real owner.
Ms King is suing her nephew – supported by her husband Mr Lee as a key witness – claiming she has always been the rightful owner.
Mr Cheng, however, insists the house is his because his aunt “gave it to him” – a claim branded a “piffle” by Mr Lee when the case began at Central London County Court .
Mr Lee told Judge Alan Johns KC that his nephew had gone from being a “cute little kid”, nicknamed “Trouble”, to being “mean and mean” as an adult.
“He’s trying to steal our house because he’s proven himself to be a devious little jerk and that’s why we’re in court,” he said.
Mr Lee, who became a millionaire through an Essex-based electronics business, told the court he had always dreamed of owning a house.
The Queen’s Gate Place Mews property, also close to the Natural History Museum, dating from 1866-1869, is accessed via a Grade II listed arcade.
Mr Lee said his wife gave their nephew £1.57 million to buy the house in his name, explaining that as they already owned a string of properties he did not want them all to be at the name of the couple.
The house is now worth more than double the price paid. Mr. Cheng became the registered owner, coming and going as he pleased and with his own keys. He, his aunt and uncle had a room there.
Ms King’s lawyer, Rupert Cohen, told the judge the couple insisted there was a clear understanding that although she was in their nephew’s name she was the real owner, her nephew the holding in trust for her.
“Ms. Huang claims that she and her nephew agreed, prior to purchasing the property, that the property would be registered in her name, but that the beneficial interest would revert to her, and that she provided the entire price purchase of the property,” he said. said.
But Mr Cheng’s lawyer, Scott Redpath, said the clear intention was to “give him that property”.
Mr Cheng maintains the house was a gift from his beloved aunt, in accordance with Taiwanese custom, while admitting she may still have rights to a “minority” stake in the property.
Part of the logic in offering him the Mews house was to “preserve family wealth”, says Mr Cheng, following a “cultural expectation that if he gave her a property, he would retain it for family significance wider”.
Mr Cheng insists he was “sick” when he initially agreed to sign over his property.
Mr Lee said that when he first met his nephew as a feisty five-year-old, “Trouble” was an affectionate nickname, but he said: “He was quite a little kid cute at the time, only now has he become mean and nasty. “.
Although he claims the property was gifted to him, Mr Cheng accepts that the court could find that his aunt had a small interest in it, given that she had shared use of it over the years.
The case continues and the judge is expected to reserve his decision until a later date.