Tycoon denies charges in macau

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung faces trial for bribery and money laundering that could see him end up in jail for more than a decade.

But late last night his company, Chinese Estates Holdings, issued a statement saying 'Mr Lau strenuously denies the allegations levelled against him', adding he would continue as executive director.

'The company's current assessment is that the accusation and any subsequent criminal proceedings (if any) against Mr Lau will not have any material adverse effect on the operations or financial conditions of the company.'

In its filing with the Hong Kong stock exchange, the company said it had formed a 'special committee' to 'consider and handle all matters in relations to the accusation'.

The company also said it had applied to the stock exchange to have its shares resume trading today. Before trading was suspended in Hong Kong yesterday morning, the price fell 2.2 per cent to HK$9.82.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed that another tycoon, Steven Lo Kit-sing, chairman of BMA Investment, had also been charged with bribery and money laundering in the same case, according to Macau's Public Prosecutions Office.

Lo declined to comment, but it is understood he has decided to appear in court even though there is no extradition treaty between Hong Kong and Macau.

Lau and Lo allegedly offered a HK$20 million cheque to disgraced former Macau public works chief Ao Man-long in bidding for five plots of land opposite Macau airport. Lau's brother, Thomas Lau Luen-hung co-signed the cheque, but a spokeswoman for the prosecutions office said he was not involved in this case. She added that other Macau businesspeople were involved in the case, although she did not name them.

Lawyers expect the case will come before Macau's Court of First Instance by the end of the year.

Under Macau law, the penalty for offering a bribe to a public servant is three years in jail, and between five and 12 years for money laundering.

Joseph Lau is the biggest shareholder of Chinese Estates Holdings and the sole executive director on the company's six-member board. However, the company said yesterday it would appoint two additional executive directors - Lam Kwong-wai, group financial controller, and Sue Chan Sze-wan, manager of sales and leasing.

Lau's sister, Amy Lau Yuk-wai, and his son, Lau Ming-wai, both serve as non-executive directors. Since the end of 2010, Lau Ming-wai has also been vice-chairman of the company. The three other seats are held by independent directors.

Phillip Capital Management fund manager Li Kwok-suen said the company would not see a huge impact on its operation in the next six months.

'This kind of court case will last for a long time before the verdict, so [Joseph] Lau can still run the company,' Li said. But, in the long run, Li thought it would affect the company's development strategy.

But he added that other family members could fill the breach.

Additional reporting by Peggy Sito