Corruption in China

Tycoon to face bribery charges

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 May, 2012, 12:00am


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Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung is to face prosecution in Macau on bribery and money laundering charges in relation to land purchases approved by convicted former public works chief Ao Man-long.

Lau's lawyers argued in vain at a preliminary hearing that he had no case to answer.

The case against Lau comes two months after the arrest by Hong Kong graft busters of Sun Hung Kai Properties' co-chairmen Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan in connection with bribery and other offences. The eldest Kwok brother, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, was also arrested later in connection with the case. None of the brothers, or Hui, has been charged with any crime.

Lau (pictured), chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, and tycoon Steven Lo Kit-sing, chairman of BMA Investment, allegedly offered HK$20 million to Ao in 2005 in connection with their bid for five plots of lands opposite Macau airport, on which a luxury development, La Scala, is now being built.

Ao, who is already serving a jail term of 28 1/2 years, is awaiting sentencing on six charges of bribery and three of money laundering.

In Ao's trial, both Lo and Lau were listed as witnesses. Lau did not testify, while Lo denied offering a bribe.

In an announcement to the Hong Kong stock exchange, Chinese Estates said: '[The] Court of Criminal Instruction of Macau [has] ... formally accepted the accusation from the public prosecutor against Lau of committing offences of bribery and money laundering in relation to the acquisition of the Macau land.'

It said the court had also rejected the request of discharge of the accusation based on lack of evidence.

The case would be remitted to the Court of First Instance of Macau 'for trial in due course', it said.

Ahead of the announcement, Chinese Estates' shares closed at HK$9.82, down 2.2 per cent.

Neither Lau nor Lo could be reached for comment. It is not known whether Lo also faces prosecution.

A HK$20 million 'consultancy fee' cheque co-signed by Lau in October 2005 and made out to Eastern Base, a Macau company set up by Lo, was among evidence presented by Macau's Commission Against Corruption investigators during Ao's latest trial. The cheque was found in Ao's former home.

The money was passed to Ecoline, a company controlled by Ao, after the sale of the airport land, the court heard. Moon Ocean, previously owned by Lo and now owned by Chinese Estates, was awarded the land.