Save China’s Tigers Exonerated in UK High Court

27 October 2014 | Save China’s Tigers News Release

London – Sitting in the Family Division of the English High Court, Mr Justice Coleridge today handed down his judgment on a preliminary issue in the case of Quan v Bray, The Chinese Tigers South African Trust (“CTSAT”), Save China’s Tigers (a UK charity and CTSAT’s sole beneficiary), and others. The couple (Ms Quan and Mr Bray) formerly worked together to save the South China tiger from extinction through a UK charity they founded in 2000. Working in partnership with the Chinese government, the charity works to breed and re-wild zoo-bred tigers in South Africa with the ultimate aim of reintroduction into the historic range in China. The work is critical: the South China tiger is the world’s most endangered subspecies and is on the brink of extinction. About 100 remain, mostly in captivity.

In this highly unusual divorce case, Ms Quan alleged that the operator of the project on behalf of Save China’s Tigers – CTSAT – was established not only to advance the cause of the Chinese tiger (the “Chinese Tiger Project”) but also to provide financial benefit and support for the husband and wife personally. She also alleged that charity funds had been diverted and used to support a lavish lifestyle for the couple, to the detriment of tiger conservation. She claimed that the assets of the Chinese Tiger Project (she put them at up to £50 million) should be available for distribution in the divorce. Both the claim and the estimated value were hotly contested by Mr Bray and the charity.

Mr Justice Coleridge today found against Ms Quan, ruling that the sole purpose of CTSAT is to advance the Chinese Tiger Project and not to provide financial benefit and support for the husband and/or the wife personally. Accordingly, the husband and wife have no rights to the assets of CTSAT. He also ruled that there had been no impropriety by the husband or wife from a UK charity perspective, rejecting various claims Ms Quan had made before the Court about the misuse of charity assets.

Hearing of this issue began in December 2013 and, following a lengthy adjournment, concluded in July 2014. Ms Quan’s allegations were widely reported in the press in December 2013. Today’s judgment unequivocally rejects her case with Mr Justice Coleridge commenting that a number of her allegations had been fabricated in order to advance her position.

The judgment represents the culmination of 25 days of court time (including reading days). Mr Justice Coleridge came to his decision after examination of over 30 files of documents, taking into consideration witness examination and arguments put forward by experienced Queen’s Counsel.

The Judge wrote:

Ms Quan’s case is “a late invention by the wife” and that “CTSAT was always, and is, only for the Chinese tigers.

I should say finally, and for the avoidance of any doubt, that during this exhaustive examination of the actions of CTSAT and SCT UK since their creation I have come across no behaviour or actions by either the husband or the wife which in any way cause me concern that they might be improper from a UK charitable perspective. There is no doubt about the benefit to the public in the Chinese Tiger project succeeding.

His conclusion was supported by expert evidence prepared by Mr Mason of leading accounting firm BDO. In respect of Mr Mason’s evidence, the Judgment states:

He carried out a very comprehensive (and very expensive) quasi audit of CTSAT to deal with the allegations made by the wife that it had been a source of funds for the parties private expenditure. He was unable to conclude that any of the expenses had been used to fund the husband or the wife.”

and Mr Mason found nothing untoward.

On the credibility of the wife’s evidence, Mr Justice Coleridge found:

“…some of the wifes evidence [is] wildly inaccurate in places. Her assertion that the parties were spending at the rate of £60,000 per month was completely wrong, possibly by a factor of 15. This could not have been just a bit of understandable miscalculation or guesstimate but a manufacturing of a figure to support her case.

She is an unreliable witness upon whom the court cannot rely“.

In respect of Ms Quansmotivations, the Judge commented:

The wife is a very intelligent person but she has become blinded by her desire for revenge and this has led her to fabricate where she thinks it will assist her case.

and “She has gone as far as saying that if she cannot lead the [Chinese tiger] project she would rather it was destroyed.

In contrast, the Judge was entirely comfortable with Mr Bray’s evidence which was given in support of the charity’s position, stating:

“His evidence at every stage was clear, detailed and consistent… and the longer he gave evidence the more convinced I became that he was telling the truth and doing his best to assist the court in arriving at the right answer. In contrast with the wife’s evidence, I found his evidence bore all conventional hallmarks of honesty and accuracy.”

Speaking on behalf of the Save China’s Tigers charity, Mr David K Thomas said “We are very pleased with Mr Justice Coleridge’s ruling and that the charity’s assets are safe from attack. The untrue allegations made by Ms Quan have been damaging to the charity. Naturally, we regret the circumstances in which it became necessary to address these allegations and particularly the fact that our limited resources have been diverted from our conservation work with the Chinese tigers. Now that the Court has so clearly exonerated both the charity and its officers of any wrongdoing, we will strive to restore the charity’s reputation. We fully intend to put this episode behind us and focus our efforts on the Chinese Tiger Project. Save China’s Tigers remains 100% committed to working with the Chinese government to reintroduce wild South China tigers into suitable protected landscapes in China.”

Mark Lim, Partner in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution team at Lewis Silkin LLP (who represented Save China’s Tigers) said, “We are pleased to have worked with the team at Save China’s Tigers to secure today’s judgment. We hope that the charity may now focus on the very important conservation work that it undertakes on a daily basis to save these magnificent animals.”

With this issue determined, the Court will now focus on division of the couple’s own disputed assets of approximately £2 million.

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