Ao denies HK tycoons gave HK$20m bribe
Macau's jailed former public works chief Ao Man-long yesterday denied for the first time receiving a HK$20 million bribe from two Hong Kong tycoons.
He also said the tycoons, Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing, had never offered him bribes over the bidding for five plots of land opposite the Macau airport.
Ao appeared yesterday in Macau's Court of Final Appeal for final submissions in his third graft trial. He is already serving jail terms totalling 28?years after courts found him guilty of graft in two previous cases.
Ao said the HK$20 million was from fugitive former construction company owner Ho Meng-fai to repay a debt. 'Ho introduced Lau and Lo to me. We have only seen each other once or twice. We had no further communication, not to mention any advantage being involved.'
He said Ho's construction company, San Meng Fai, was involved in many government projects, including several for the Macau East Asian Games in 2005. And Ecoline, a company controlled by Ao, had offered to consult on some of those projects, including the design of the canopy for the Macau Dome Stadium.
But Ao said San Meng Fai had financial problems and owed Ecoline money. Ho, whose company was also responsible for the construction of a show home for a luxury residential estate on the land opposite the airport that had been sold, once told Ao he had received a HK$20 million pre-payment from Lo. He transferred the money to Ecoline to repay debts.
The court earlier heard that the HK$20 million 'consultancy fee' cheque was co-signed by brothers Thomas and Joseph Lau in October 2005 and made out to Eastern Base, a Macau company set up by Lo. The money was subsequently passed to Ecoline, after the sale of the airport land.
In 2005, international property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle won the bid, which was submitted on behalf of Moon Ocean, a Macau company now owned by Joseph Lau's Chinese Estates Holdings.
It was also the first time Ao admitted he set up Ecoline and Best Choice Assets - two offshore companies which prosecutors said were used to conceal the flow of bribes - because it was cost-effective.
He also complained of his financial situation. 'I am now out at the elbows and no words can describe my bitterness,' he said. 'For more than five years in jail, I cannot even pay the penalty the court ordered me to pay [in the previous trials].'
He then paused and said in a choking voice: 'Your honour, I do not want to say any more.'
Prosecutor Kuok Un-man said Ao abused his power as an official and had disgraced the Macau government, likening Ao's alleged bribe-taking to 'running his own business'.
'For his very own advantage, the whole of Macau society had to pay the bill,' she said.
But Fong Kin-fao, a lawyer for Ao, said the prosecution failed to establish beyond doubt that Ao had actually interfered in the bids for the land opposite the airport and other government projects. The court earlier heard that Stanley Ho Hung-sun, the founder of Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau, which competed in the bidding for the land opposite the airport, had complained about the process.
Outside court, Angela Leong On-kei, Ho's fourth wife, said she was not clear about the situation back in 2005 and would leave it to the court to handle. She said Ho was disappointed when he did not win the bid.
Ao faces six counts of taking bribes and three of money laundering.