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Lawyer tapes casino king asking that suit proceed

HONG KONG--Lawyers for Stanley Ho released three videos Monday that they say show he wants to continue with a lawsuit against family members accused of seizing the tycoon's US$1.6 billion stake in his Macau casino empire.

It's yet another twist in a family feud that erupted last week over who will control Ho's interests in the world's biggest gambling market.

Ho, who was hospitalized for seven months after reportedly undergoing brain surgery in August 2009, has 16 surviving children by four women he calls his “wives.” The unfolding drama highlights a power struggle among different branches of the family for control of his lucrative gambling business.

The video clips show the 89-year-old billionaire answering questions from his lawyer, Gordon Oldham, about the dispute, which became public when Hong Kong-listed casino operator Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, or SJM, said nearly all of Ho's shares were being transferred to the families of his second and third wives.

In one video dated Jan. 25, Ho tells Oldham that he was forced to sign some documents for the transfer and calls it “something like robbery.”

“We still go ahead,” Ho says when Oldham asks him what to do if the two families don't reply to requests to return the stake.

Ho is currently hospitalized for what Oldham said was a procedure involving a tube in his throat that allows him to breathe. Oldham said he planned to see Ho later Monday evening.

Ho also denies that the transfer of ownership of a holding company named Lanceford — which indirectly owns the stake in SJM and represents the bulk of his assets — to the two families was part of succession plans put in place in December.

“We must get back Lanceford,” Ho says in the clip.

Ho tells Oldham he wants to divide his estate equally among the four families.

The families of the second and third wives said late Sunday that Ho had dropped his lawsuit. They released a letter written in Chinese purportedly signed by Ho in which he said that he is dropping the “unnecessary steps of legal procedures” that were taken because of a recent lack of understanding and communication.

On Jan. 26, Ho appeared on television with his third wife and one of their daughters to say he was dropping the suit and firing Oldham.

But Ho tells Oldham in a video dated the same day that he was pressured into reading the statement. Oldham also asks if Ho wants him to file the suit.

“That's what I want,” Ho says. He also confirms he wants Oldham to represent him.

In another video dated Jan. 30, Ho reaffirms his wishes to continue with the lawsuit. All three were filmed in the living room of his home in an upscale Hong Kong neighborhood, with nurses, bodyguards and family members present.

Oldham told reporters that the video shows that his client is “alert, articulate and very clear in his own mind.”

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