A B.C. Supreme Court justice has ruled that a Chinese woman who claimed to be the wife of a slain West Vancouver millionaire does not meet the definition of a “spouse” and is therefore not entitled to a share of his multi-million-dollar estate.
The decision means the estate of Gang Yuan -– who left no will when his body was found chopped up in his British Properties mansion – will be split among his five children from five different mothers.
According to court documents, Yuan’s estate is estimated to be worth anywhere between $7 million and $21 million.
Justice Elliot Myers’ ruling handed down Wednesday comes after a civil trial put the details of the millionaire playboy’s globe-trotting lifestyle and relationships under the microscope.
Following Yuan’s death at 42 in May 2015, two women came forward claiming to be his wife. One of those women, referred to in the court ruling as Mother 2, reached a settlement and withdrew her claim part way through the trial.
The other woman, Mother 1, argued that she considered herself Yuan’s wife, having met and moved in with Yuan in China when she was 16 and he was 30, had a child with him and continued a close relationship with his family over a number of years.
Her claim was complicated, however, by the fact her relationship with Yuan was happening “at the same time as relations with four other women who testified at the trial,” who also had children with Yuan, the judge noted.
Yuan gained permanent resident status in Canada through marriage and subsequent divorce from a sixth woman, which Myers described as “clearly an immigration fraud.” Yuan led a lavish lifestyle, making money at businesses which none of the witnesses – including his brother – knew much about, the judge noted.
He also “kept his relationships compartmentalized,” the judge wrote.
The five mothers of his children mostly had no knowledge of each other or the other children until after Yuan’s death, the judge noted. Yuan also had casual relationships with many other women and actively searched out women on online dating sites.
In their testimony, each of the five mothers described how Yuan pursued them, told them he wanted to settle down, met their parents and paid for apartments for them. He also encouraged the women to have his children – in two cases flying the pregnant women to other countries so they could give birth there and obtain citizenship for their children – while conducting similar relationships with the others.
In considering whether Mother 1 should be considered Yuan’s spouse, the judge noted, “The concept of a marriage-like relationship is an elastic one.”
Whether the couple lived in the same home or slept in the same bed, had separate or joint finances, had sex, ate meals together or were seen as a couple in the community are factors to consider, the judge noted. But Myers wrote a key consideration is the intent of both parties to be in a “marriage-like” relationship.
Myers wrote it was apparent Yuan had called that off with Mother 1, noting she and Yuan did not live in the same home, spent little time together and had not had a sexual relationship for some time. Yuan also moved another woman, Mother 2, and her child to Canada while cancelling plans for a visit by Mother 1, the judge noted.
“. . . whatever Mother 1’s intentions were, Yuan had no intention to live in a marriage-like relationship with her,” wrote the judge. “Rather, his actions demonstrate that his intentions were to live the life of a wealthy bachelor, or, as submitted by the defendants, a playboy, without being committed in a marriage-like way to any woman. The evidence indicates that he devoted much of his adult life to making money and using that money as a means to have sex with a large number of women, and children with several of them.”
How much money each of the five children will get has yet to be determined, the judge noted. The estate is both being sued by Yuan’s mother and suing others over alleged loans.
The trial of Li Zhao, who faces a charge of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in Yuan’s killing, has been adjourned until later this year in B.C. Supreme Court.