Macau could seize luxury HK$20b La Scala site

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 27 May, 2012, 12:00am
 

The site of the HK$20 billion luxury La Scala development could be seized by the Macau government at the end of the corruption trial in which two Hong Kong tycoons are accused of paying a HK$20 million bribe to a disgraced top official.

Macau's chief executive, Fernando Chui Sai-on, declined yesterday to rule out his government seizing the five plots of land involved.

Chui (pictured) said that his government would act in line with any ruling the courts make over the acquisition of the land, opposite Macau Airport and near the city's Cotai casino strip. The developer, Chinese Estates, has pre-sold hundreds of flats there, and has set up a special committee to monitor the potential impact of the case on the property. While Chui's comment leaves open the possibility that the sites could be taken back by the government, legal experts believe it unlikely.

Tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-shing deny they paid a bribe to get the land for the development to the disgraced former secretary for transport and public works, Ao Man-long, who is serving a 28 1/2-year jail term for corruption.

Chui said: 'For now, we have to wait for the court's ruling. We will handle the matter according to the ruling of the court.'

Lau, chairman of Chinese Estates, and Lo, chairman of BMA Investment and convenor of South China, Hong Kong's most successful soccer team, are charged with bribery and money laundering over a HK$20 million cheque allegedly offered to Ao during the bidding process.

On Friday, the Macau Business Daily reported that 300 of the 900 flats in the La Scala project had been sold. Lawyer Vitor Gomes told the paper that buyers would have the right to compensation amounting to twice their down payment if the land were taken back. But he told the newspaper he did not believe the land would be taken back 'in order not to harm the buyers, as well as to protect the image of Macau'.

The verdict in Ao's latest trial is due to be handed down on Thursday.

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