Sun Hung Kai Properties

Walter Kwok is arrested By ICAC

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 May, 2012, 12:00am

The third Kwok brother, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, has been arrested as part of Hong Kong's biggest anti-corruption probe, it emerged yesterday.

The ousted Sun Hung Kai Properties scion, 61 (pictured), was detained and released on bail on Thursday by ICAC investigators in connection with the unprecedented inquiry into his billionaire brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 60, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 58.

A statement released yesterday by the Independent Commission Against Corruption for the first time directly linked Walter Kwok to the probe into his siblings.

It also came just two days after Walter Kwok told the South China Morning Post he was 'as a matter of fact ... not involved'' in the investigation into his brothers and former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, 64.

Sources confirmed that Walter Kwok returned to ICAC headquarters in North Point late yesterday to meet investigators, but left shortly after.

Last night a legal source close to the probe said the latest developments were 'not the end of what is an extremely sensitive and delicate investigation'.

Sun Hung Kai Properties confirmed Kwok's arrest by the ICAC yesterday morning, saying he was detained in connection with an investigation into 'an offence or offences suspected ... to have been committed under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance'' and was released on bail.

This was later confirmed by a spokesman for the ICAC, who said : 'A senior member of a listed company in Hong Kong was yesterday arrested in relation to the corruption case involving two senior executives of the listed company and a former principal official of the Hong Kong government.'' No one has been charged in connection with the ICAC investigation ,which the Post understands is looking into suspected debts of 'more than HK$100 million' linked to Rafael Hui.

These include allegations of an unsecured loan of HK$50 million in addition to alleged irregularities relating to land deals involving Sun Hung Kai Properties.

The ICAC would not give details of the arrest. But Walter Kwok's speedy detention and release came after he told the Post it was his brothers who had 'employed' Rafael Hui.

He was forced out of the company after a bitter family dispute in 2008.

In recent days he has outlined in interviews with the Post how he is trying to re-exert his influence in the property giant through a legal action in the tiny European principality of Lichtenstein.

Walter Kwok could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Sun Hung Kai Properties' share price dropped over 1.8 per cent, or HK$1.70, to close at HK$92.60 yesterday after news of Walter Kwok's arrest.

Its share price has fallen about 20 per cent from HK$115.8 on March 19, when the ICAC arrested Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, SHKP's executive director.

Despite the slump in the share price, many small investors said they would continue to hold their shares in the developer.

SHKP investor Macy Cheung, 65, said: 'I'm not too worried that the latest arrest could cause further impact on its share price, as the eldest brother has been kicked out of the company and he is not running it.'

Cheung holds about 10,000 SHKP shares which were bought more than two decades ago at below HK$10 per share and in 2003 at around HK$40.

She said the incentive for her to sell the shares was low, as she did not believe the company's business performance would turn bad. 'The share price has fallen from over HK$110 in March since the inquiry started. If I had panicked, I would have sold it weeks ago when it started to drop, but not now,' she said.

David Ng, a property analyst at Macquarie Equities Research, said SHKP's share price had barely moved, since Walter Kwok had minimal influence on the company. He said: 'He is a non-executive director and rarely attends board meetings.'

An equity stock analyst who asked not to be named said: 'The price drop is a lot to me. The company used to trade at 10 per cent discount to its net asset value, but now the gap has widened to more than 40 per cent. It is a huge discount.' But he added: 'Unlike mainland private enterprises, Sun Hung Kai Properties has a lot of quality assets. It will not cut the rental of IFC (in Central) to HK$50 per square foot from the existing HK$180 because of the arrest. They will keep selling properties at a high price.'