Sun Hung Kai Properties

I was not involved, he said - then ICAC swooped

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

Walter Kwok Ping-sheung's arrest came just two days after the former chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) publicly distanced himself from the bribery scandal engulfing the company.

His younger brothers, SHKP co-chairmen Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, and Rafael Hui Si-yan, a former chief secretary of Hong Kong, were arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption on March 29.

Walter Kwok told the South China Morning Post on Tuesday: 'As a matter of fact, I was not involved [in the alleged corruption].' He also said he had no knowledge of what Hui was doing while he was a consultant for the company. Hui is the highest-ranking former government official arrested in the ICAC's 38-year history.

None of those arrested has been charged, and they are all out on bail.

In an interview, published on Wednesday, Walter Kwok, who was ousted in 2008 after 18 years as the firm's chairman, told of a new front he had opened in his battle to regain his inheritance in SHKP.

The family feud over control of the company began that year, when he was demoted to non-executive director. He was replaced as chairman by his mother, Kwong Siu-hing, who stepped down late last year in favour of his brothers.

He is challenging the validity of Kwong's removal of him as a beneficiary of the family trust that controls the property empire.

While he said in the interview that his relationship with his brothers turned sour in 2008, the roots of the struggle may be traced to the day 15 years ago when he was kidnapped by the notorious gangster 'Big Spender' Cheung Tze-keung.

Walter Kwok was stripped to his underwear, beaten and forced into a makeshift wooden cage after refusing to call his family to ask them to prepare a ransom. He was released a week later after HK$600 million was paid to 'Big Spender' and his gang.

He emerged from the kidnapping a scarred man, physically and mentally, and did not play a serious part in the company's operations for some time. When he did return to work, the relationship with his brothers broke down.

His love life also figures in the family feud. After his captors released him, his emotional health deteriorated, but in his close female friend, Ida Tong Kam-hing, he found a ready and understanding listener.

It has been suggested that Tong was key to Kwong's decision to sideline Walter Kwok. The matriarch was reportedly worried that the interests of the family would be damaged by Tong's influence on him.

On October 4, 2010, the conflict reached its zenith when Kwong removed him as a beneficiary of the family trust.

Since then, he has fought to regain control of the company and his one-third stake in the trust.

The latest skirmish is a case to be heard in a Liechtenstein court on May 21.

He says he won the authority to view a document kept in the European tax haven that he believes shows the present shareholdings in the family trust. Liechtenstein-based lawyer Thomas Wilhelm and his firm Codex have filed an appeal against allowing him to view the document.