Monday, September 25, 2023 – A rich couple is embroiled in a family feud over a luxury £4million house in London.
Michael Lee, 79, and his wife King-Su Huang, 73, bought the property in Kensington way back in 2004.
But Mr Lee and Mrs Haung now say their decision to buy the house in their rs Haung’s ‘very close’ nephew Cheng-Jen Ku’s name has resulted in a court battle over who truly owns the house.
Cheng lives in a room in the house but the couple labelled him a ‘devious little sod’ and claimed he has ‘stolen’ the house from them.
The 40-year-old man claims his auntie ‘gifted’ the house to him but Mr Lee blasted that suggestion as ‘piffle’ as the case kicked off at Central London County Court.
Mrs Huang is suing her nephew and put her husband as a key witness.
She wants the court to rule that she has always been the rightful owner of the house, even though it’s in Mr Cheng’s name.
Mr Lee, a millionaire electronics dealer, told Judge Alan Johns KC that his nephew had gone from being ‘a cute little kid’ nicknamed ‘Trouble’ to a ‘mean and nasty’ man in adulthood.
‘He is trying to steal our house because he has turned out to be a devious little sod and that’s why we’re in court,’ he said from the witness box.
He told the court it had always been his ‘dream’ to own a house in Queen’s Gate Place Mews, just a short walk from the Royal Albert Hall and Natural History Museum.
The Victorian mews was built between 1866 and 1869 to provide stables for the grand houses on nearby Queen’s Gate and is accessed through a Grade-II Listed archway.
Lee told the judge that his wife handed their nephew £1.57m to buy the house in his name, explaining that, because they already owned a string of properties: ‘I didn’t want all these properties to be in our names.’
The house is now worth more than twice the price that was paid, with lawyers saying it is worth £4m.
Cheng became its registered owner, coming and going as he pleased and with his own set of keys, with both he and his aunt and uncle having a room there.
Mrs Huang’s barrister Rupert Cohen told the judge that the couple insist that there had been a clear understanding that, despite being in their nephew’s name, she was the true owner, with her nephew holding it in trust for her.
‘Mrs Huang claims that she and her nephew agreed, prior to the purchase of the property, that the property be registered in his name, but that the beneficial interest would be hers, and she provided the entire purchase price of the property,’ he said.
But Cheng’s barrister, Scott Redpath, claimed the clear intention was to ‘give this property to him’.
Cheng maintains that the house was a gift from his beloved aunt in line with Taiwanese custom, although conceding she may still have rights to a ‘minority’ stake in the property.
Part of the logic in gifting him the house was to ‘preserve the family wealth’, Mr Cheng claims, following a ‘cultural expectation that, if gifted a property, he will maintain it for the wider family importance’.
But an indignant Mr Lee fired back from the witness box: ‘Never – if that was the intention I wouldn’t be fighting this case now.’
‘He hasn’t put a dime into maintaining that property,’ said Mr Lee, branding his nephew ‘too lazy’ to even mow the lawn when he once stayed at their country home as a young man.