Wong, Wen-Young v (1) Grand View Private Trust Company Ltd, (2) Transglobe Private Trust Company Ltd

Judgment Date22 June 2022
Docket Number2018: 44
CourtSupreme Court (Bermuda)
Wong, Wen-Young
(1) Grand View Private Trust Company Limited
(2) Transglobe Private Trust Company Limited
(3) Vantura Private Trust Company Limited
(4) Universal Link Private Trust Company Limited
(5) The Estate of Hung Wen-Hsiung, Deceased
(6) Ocean View Private Trust Company Limited
(7) Wang, Ruey Hwa (aka “Susan Wang”)
(8) Wang, Ven-Jiao (aka “Tony Wang”) (as joint administrator of the Bermudian estate of YT Wang)
(9) Wang, Hsueh-Min (aka “Jennifer Wang”) (as joint administrator of the Bermudian estate of YT Wang)

[2022] SC (Bda) 44 Com (22 June 2022)

2018: 44

In The Supreme Court of Bermuda


Purpose trusts-statutory interpretation-whether trusts are void because of mixed charitable and non-charitable purposes or on grounds of uncertainty-whether founding of trusts vitiated by mistake, undue influence, lack of authority, mental incapacity and/or failure to comply with requirements for writing-governing law-whether Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and/or Taiwanese law applies to claims-whether English Statute of Frauds Act 1677 received into BVI law upon settlement at common law- whether foreign limitation periods should be disapplied on public policy grounds-Trusts (Special Provisions) Act 1989- Trusts (Special Provisions) Amendment Act 1998 - Trusts (Special Provisions) Amendment Act 2020-Limitation Act 1984 sections 34A, 34B

Mrs Elspeth Talbot Rice QC and Mr Dakis Hagen QC of counsel and Mr Rod S. Attride-Stirling and Sean Dunleavy, ASW Law Limited, for the Plaintiff ( “Dr Wong” / “Winston”)

Mr Richard Wilson QC and Prof. Jonathan Harris QC (Hon.) of counsel and Mrs Fozeia RanaFahy MJM Limited, for the 8 th Defendant (“D8” / “ Tony Wang”)

Mr Stephen Midwinter QC of counsel and Mr Steven White and John McSweeney, Appleby (Bermuda) Limited, for the 5 th Defendant (“the Hung Estate”)

Mr Mark Howard QC and Mr Jonathan Adkin QC of counsel and Mr Scott Pearman and Mr Paul Smith, Conyers Dill & Pearman Limited, for the 1 st to 4 th and 6 th Defendants (the “Trustees”)

Mr Scott Pearman and Mr Paul Smith, Conyers Dill & Pearman Limited, for the 7 th Defendant (“ Susan Wang”)

Description Paragraph Nos.
Prologue 1-3
Introduction and Summary 4-14
The Issues in controversy 15-19
The Main legal issues in controversy 20
Summary of Fact Evidence 21-210
Summary of Expert Evidence 211-300
The Applicable Laws Issues 301-369
Mistake Claims under Bermuda and/or BVI Law 370-444
Undue Influence Claims under Bermuda and/or BVI Law 445-455
Lack of Authority Claims 456-556

Tony Wang's Ocean View Trust Claims

(a) Mental capacity

(b) Want of authority

Provisional findings: Tony Wang's motives for bringing his Claims in the present proceedings 650-654
The Trustees’ Powers of Appointment Counterclaim 655-674
The Limitation Defences 675-693
Mixed Purposes Trust Claims 694-749
Trusts Void for Uncertainty Claims 750-858
Formalities Claim (Does the Statute of Frauds Form Part of BVI Law and Invalidate the Transfer of the Founders’ Equitable Interest in the Shares to the Bermuda Purpose Trusts?) 859-947
Provisional findings: The Plaintiff's Motives for bringing his unsuccessful Claims 948-952
Conclusion 953-956

In an iconic early scene in Mike Nichols’ fictional 1967 coming of age movie ‘ The Graduate’, set in part at the University of California Berkeley campus, Ben is cornered at a party by a friend of his overbearing father who offers a word to the wise: Ben, I've got just one word for you: ‘plastics’. There's a great future in it”. Meanwhile, in real world Taiwan, YC Wang (“YC”) had already formed Formosa Plastics Corporation (“FPC”) 13 years earlier. In 1957 a family friend, Wen-Hsiung Hung (“Mr Hung”), joined FPC. The following year YC persuaded his younger brother YT Wang (“YT”) to join FPC, doubtless telling him that there was a great future in the business.


The Plaintiff, YC's first-born son, was completing his English boarding education and beginning his English University studies as the seismic inter-generational shifts reflected in part in student protests shook the Western world in the late 1960s. By Dr Wong's own account, it was “ somewhat of a cultural shock1 when he returned to comparatively traditional Taiwan in 1980 with a British Chinese wife, after completing doctoral studies in London in 1975 and working for five years in the United States. The sixties were, Dr Wong recalled in his evidence, “ the period of the Beatles, of the hippies, of the mini-skirts and micro-skirts. So it was quite a period” 2. It is impossible to make sense of the present litigation without attempting to understand, if only in an impressionistic way, the dramatic falling out between the by now middle-aged Winston and his father in 1996 3. This rupture resulted in the senior son and traditionally appointed heir apparent of YC being publicly banished from the family business, which was by then virtually a national institution in Taiwan.


In the imagined world of ‘ The Graduate’, the young Ben (having fallen out with his father) pursued romantic love on the nearby Campus of Berkeley. Two decades later in the real world, after his dizzying fall from grace, Dr Wong admitted to feeling “ bewildered and directionless”. However, he travelled nearly 7,000 miles from Taipei to the University of California at Berkeley in pursuit of his love of academe and for a brief sojourn as a visiting scholar. Dr Wong eventually rediscovered his focus and ultimately embarked upon a long and winding road that resulted in him joining arms with his cousin Tony Wang and bringing the present litigation to this Court's door.


The Plaintiff (referred to by his counsel at trial as Dr Wong) commenced the present proceedings on February 21, 2018. D8, the Plaintiff's cousin (referred to at trial by his counsel as “Tony”) was joined as a Defendant on March 9, 2020 together with his half-sister Jennifer Wang (D9). The Plaintiff, as the administrator of his late father's estate in Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands (“BVI”) (since 2016 and 2017, respectively) and D8, as an administrator of his late father's estate in Bermuda and BVI (since 2020 and 2021, respectively 4), joined arms together (together, the “Claimants”) to launch a concerted attack on the validity of five Bermuda purpose trusts, purportedly settled by their fathers (YC and YT (the “Founders”)) as part of what may loosely be described as an estate planning exercise principally carried out between 2001 and 2005. In the cross-hairs of the Claimants’ legal assault weapons are the following five purpose trusts (together, the “Bermuda Purpose Trusts” and, the first four together the “First Four Bermuda Purpose Trusts”):

  • (a) the Wang Family Trust (declared May 10, 2001 – trustee, Grand View Private Trust Company Limited – “Grand View PTC”);

  • (b) the China Trust (declared June 24, 2002 – trustee, Transglobe Private Trust Company Limited – “Transglobe PTC”);

  • (c) the Vantura Trust (declared May 9, 2005 – trustee, Vantura Private Trust Company Limited – “Vantura PTC”);

  • (d) the Universal Link Trust (declared May 9, 2005 – trustee, Universal Link Private Trust Company Limited – “Universal Link PTC”);

  • (e) the Ocean View Trust (declared March 8, 2013 – trustee, Ocean View Private Trust Company Limited – “Ocean View PTC”).


The main Defendants were the five private trust companies, referred to by their counsel as the “Trustees” but referred to by the Claimants, keen to point out that they were not independent professional trustees, as the “PTCs”. D5, the Hung Estate, was to a significant extent a default defendant against whom relief was sought in the event that effective relief was not obtained as against the Trustees in respect of certain claims. Mr Hung was the loyal servant of YC and YT with longstanding family ties to them. The Claimants in their oral evidence appeared to withdraw any suggestion that Mr Hung had deliberately acted against the Founders’ wishes. D7, Susan Wang, referred to by her counsel as “Susan”, was

joined as a Defendant because certain powers of appointment had been conferred on her in relation to certain assets transferred to the Wang Family Trust and the Ocean View Trust. In the absence of unanimity amongst the parties about referring to the Founders’ children by their first names, I generally refer to them all (save for reasons of economy or in references to their childhood) in formal terms

Because of the substantial value of the trust assets in dispute, thought to be at least US$14 billion, the present litigation has been contested through the deployment of the most elaborate and skilfully advanced pleadings, legal and factual arguments that one could possibly imagine. Despite this, the foundations of the dispute at base consist of a relatively unremarkable family dispute in high value trust dispute terms. The Founders’ families have different branches, and the Claimants are ‘separated’ from those family members who control the Bermuda Purpose Trusts. Unable or unwilling to achieve a negotiated resolution for their grievances, they have resorted to what is perceived by the family ‘establishment’ as almost seditiously aggressive litigation designed to recover the assets settled upon trust and to distribute them to the Founders’ heirs according to Taiwanese inheritance law. An unusual feature of the present case is that those family members who seek to defend the Bermuda Purpose Trusts, on the grounds that they represent their fathers’ desired legacy, do so against their own financial interest.


This unusual feature of an otherwise unremarkable general scenario arises in the following way. The common feature of the Bermuda Purpose Trusts is that they were established perpetually for non-charitable and charitable purposes with no...

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