It will be up to a B.C. Supreme Court justice to decide if a slain West Vancouver multi-millionaire was in a “marriage-like relationship” with a Chinese woman who has claimed to be his spouse, or whether she was just one of multiple partners the wealthy businessman was juggling at the time of his death, following a civil trial in B.C. Supreme Court.
A substantial share of the estimated $16-million estate of Gang Yuan – who was killed in May 2015, leaving no will – hangs in the balance.
Yuan’s body was found chopped up inside his West Vancouver 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.
Originally, two women both sued Yuan’s estate, claiming to be spouses. Five children from five different mothers also have claims on the estate.
One of the women later withdrew her claim.
Earlier in the trial, the other woman, who under a publication ban can be identified only as Mother 1, testified in court that her relationship with Yuan was “like husband and wife,” despite him moving to Canada and marrying another woman for what she called “purposes of immigration.”
But Zhao, who was brought to court at the request of a lawyer representing one of the children, testified Yuan had relationships with many, many women and changed his romantic partners “almost every day.”
Zhao testified Yuan would book plane tickets for women to come and visit him from cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Beijing and Shanghai. Often the women would stay either at a mansion Yuan owned in Shaughnessy or at the West Vancouver home, Zhao testified through a Mandarin interpreter. “What we observed is that he’d take different women to come to his place and stay one or two nights. The maximum: two nights. And then he would kick them out and let them go,” he said.
Zhao said Yuan wouldn’t let the women stay more than two days at his home, even if they had flown there from China, because “He was worried if he lets any one of them stay too long at his place that will entitle them to get a share of his property.”
Asked how many women Yuan had romantic relationships with during the five-year period the two men lived together, Zhao said, “It’s impossible to count. I never kept a count. Because there were too many. Almost every day it changed to a different person.”
Mother 1 previously testified she didn’t know about Yuan’s other relationships or children and was shocked when she learned of them after he died.
But lawyers for Yuan’s children have argued her relationship with him was not comparable to a marriage.
In closing arguments Dec. 14, lawyer Ross McLarty - who represents two of the children – pointed to large periods of time when Mother 1 couldn’t remember if Yuan had been away on business or whether she accompanied him on any of his trips.
“It’s a remarkable lack of memory for someone who suggests they were in a marriage-like relationship,” he said.
McLarty said Mother 1 also appeared to have made no plans to immigrate to Canada, despite knowing Yuan was moving his life there.
Justice Elliott Myers said his task will be to determine whether Mother 1’s relationship with Yuan can be distinguished from the others as “marriage like,” in a situation where “you’ve got five relationships and five children and three other sexual affairs at least that we know of,” along with immigration issues.
Myers has reserved his decision in the case to the new year.
Zhao’s criminal trial is still before the courts.