A trial to determine who will inherit the $16-million estate of a West Vancouver businessman killed in 2015 is underway in B.C. Supreme Court.
Two women – both claiming to be spouses of slain businessman Gang Yuan – and five children, all from different mothers, have all claimed a share of the fortune.
The estate of Yuan, a 42-year-old businessman with ties to both Canada and China, was left in limbo when Yuan was killed at his British Properties mansion on May 3, 2015, leaving no will.
Yuan’s body was found chopped up inside the mansion at 963 King Georges Way.
Li Zhao, the husband of Yuan's cousin, who also lived in the house, is currently on trial for second-degree murder and for interfering with a dead body.
In B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, lawyer Ben Ingram who represents one of the women, told Justice Elliott Myers his client is seeking a declaration that she was Yuan’s spouse and is entitled to spousal share of the estate by virtue of living with Yuan in a “marriage-like relationship,” even though she was living separate from Yuan, in China.
It is also possible the second woman, who was living in Canada when Yuan died, is also a spouse, the lawyer said.
In court this week, the first woman – who under a publication ban can only be identified as Mother 1 - testified she first met Yuan and began living with him in China in the summer of 2004, when she was 16 or 17 and he was 30.
“He was very caring to me,” she said through a translator. “He rather spoiled me.”
The woman described their relationship “like husband and wife,” adding that they had met each other’s parents.
Later, the woman testified, she moved out of the house where she’d been living with Yuan and his parents and Yuan married a woman in Canada in 2005.
The marriage to the other woman was part of an immigration plan that Yuan had told her about, Mother 1 testified, so she wasn’t upset about it.
“We were still considering ourselves husband and wife,” she said.
The woman in Canada sponsored Yuan to immigrate through the marriage, and he obtained his permanent resident status in June of 2007, Ingram told the judge earlier.
Two months later, Yuan divorced the immigration wife and resumed living with Mother1 in China.
When she became pregnant with Yuan’s child in 2007, “all the family members were very excited,” Mother1 testified. “Yuan was particularly happy.”
The woman said Yuan had to spend a certain amount of time in Canada, to maintain his permanent resident status.
She said he had planned to move her, their son and his parents to Canada once he had transferred his business interests here.
Yuan was killed before that happened, though.
It was while Yuan was in Canada in 2005 that he first met the second woman, Mother 2 who has also claimed to be his spouse, Ingram told the court.
Mother 1 testified she didn’t know about the other woman or about his other children until after Yuan died. “After Mr. Yuan passed away when I came to Canada, that’s when I found out,” she said.
“I was quite shocked and also I was quite angry,” she said.
Under cross-examination, the woman was asked whether Yuan’s decision to marry to someone else in another country was consistent with being in a marriage-like relationship with her.
“He did discuss this matter with me before,” she said. “I was aware of it and I agreed with it. He did that only for the purposes of immigration.”
In an unusual move, Zhao – the man accused of murdering Yuan – is expected to testify at the civil trial this week about the nature of Yuan’s relationships.
The judge at the criminal trial has already heard Zhao testify this summer about how he shot Yuan in the driveway of the West Vancouver mansion after the two men got into a fight when Yuan said he would like to marry Zhao’s daughter as part of a business deal.
Zhao’s murder trial is not expected to conclude until next year.
The civil trial over Yuan’s estate continues this week in B.C. Supreme Court.