CHARLES Spackman, the Hong-Kong-based executive chairman and chief executive officer of the Singapore-Exchange-listed Spackman Entertainment Group, may have to pay some US$12 million to a Korean investor if a lawsuit filed against him in Hong Kong is successful.
The litigation in Hong Kong is the centrepiece of a cross-border legal battle that started in South Korea more than a decade ago, and has since extended to Bermuda and the United States, even entangling the wealthy businessman's alma mater, Harvard University in the chase to trace Mr Spackman's assets.
The payment that Korean investor Woo Sang Cheol is trying to collect was stipulated in 2011 by a Seoul High Court judgment related to the 2001 collapse of infotech firm Littauer Technologies Company Ltd, of which Mr Spackman was a major investor and director.
According to Korean court documents, the South Korean authorities had already been investigating Littauer's cashflows before its collapse.
That same year, Mr Woo filed a civil complaint against Mr Spackman and other defendants, seeking damages for losses suffered as an investor in Littauer.
When the 2011 Seoul High Court judgment ordered Mr Spackman to pay US$4.5 million subject to interest, Mr Spackman, a US citizen and Hong Kong permanent resident who is also the head of global investment holding company Spackman Group, was no longer in South Korea.
It took Mr Woo another five years before he had the legal documents to seek enforcement in Hong Kong of the judgment, which has ballooned to about US$12 million today with accumulated interest.
"I spent time almost every day working on the litigation for 10 years," Mr Woo told The Business Times.
"I still have not received a single penny from Charles Spackman. . . I am certain that we will enforce the final Korean judgment in Hong Kong and be paid 100 per cent of the judgment.
"Every day the judgment grows bigger with interest. I have already been pursuing him for 10 years and I am determined to enforce my legal rights around the world until I am paid in full."
Part of the difficulty in trying to collect the money is in tracing Mr Spackman's distribution of assets, Mr Woo's lawyer John Han told BT.
In the latest efforts to determine Mr Spackman's asset value and ability to pay up, Mr Woo's team launched legal proceedings in February against the former's alma mater, Harvard, and his daughter, Harvard sophomore Claire Spackman, in Boston.
A US Federal Judge has ruled that Harvard University has to turn over the banking information related to Mr Spackman's donations to the school, and that his daughter has to testify and turn over records about her father's assets.
Evidence is still being collected for the case, but Mr Han said he is "extremely confident" of making a full recovery on the judgment in Hong Kong.
"He (Mr Spackman) is 100 per cent capable of paying up," said Mr Han. "There's no valid defences to our legal claim."
According to a New York Times report, Mr Spackman's company said in court documents filed in 2014 that he was unaware of the case until just before the High Court ruling, and that he "maintains he did not commit the offences", the article cited the documents as saying.
When contacted by BT, Mr Spackman's lawyer said neither he nor Mr Spackman would be commenting on the case.
About the case
2000: Charles Spackman acquires Woo Sang Cheol's company, Linux, and Mr Woo became a minority shareholder of infotech firm Littauer Technologies Company Ltd, of which Mr Spackman was a major investor and director. The South Korean authorities begin to investigate the cashflows of Littauer.
2001: Stock of Littauer Technologies Company Ltd collapsed. Littauer CEO Heo Rok is arrested on the charge of violating the Securities and Exchange Act.
2003: Mr Woo files a complaint against Mr Spackman and other defendants, seeking damages for losses Mr Woo suffered as an investor in Littauer.
2008: Seoul Central District Court dismisses Mr Woo's complaint.
2011: Seoul High Court reverses the judgment of the Seoul Central District Court and orders Mr Spackman to pay Mr Woo US$4.5 million, subject to interest.
Sept 2016: Mr Spackman served with papers as part of litigation initiated in Hong Kong, where he is based, to enforce the Seoul High Court judgment, which with interest has grown to approximately US$12 million.
Feb 2017: Legal proceedings begin in Boston, US, to collect evidence of Mr Spackman's assets. A US Federal Judge rules that Mr Spackman's alma mater, Harvard University, has to turn over the banking information of Mr Spackman's donations to the school, and that his daughter, Claire Spackman, a sophomore at Harvard, has to testify and turn over records about her father's assets.