Corruption in China

Macau may seize La Scala flats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 June, 2012, 12:00am


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The Macau government yesterday issued a warning that it may seize the land on which the luxury La Scala development is being built. The land was at the centre of a corruption trial that saw jailed former public works chief Ao Man-long convicted again last week.

The Chinese Estates Holdings project is being built on five parcels of land opposite the airport. Their sale was ruled illegal, and Ao had his sentence extended six months to the maximum 29 years by the Macau Court of Appeal on May 31.

Ao has until Monday to file an appeal against his conviction for corruption and money laundering, in a case involving Hong Kong tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung, chairman of Chinese Estates, and Steven Lo Kit-sing, chairman of BMA Investment and convenor of South China soccer club. It is unclear if Ao has appealed.

Some Macau legislators described the seizure warning as an unusual step and worried that if the government went ahead it might trigger legal disputes over compensation, because several hundred La Scala flats have reportedly been sold to Macau and Hong Kong buyers.

Macau lawmaker Au Kam-san said: 'It's unusual for Macau [to clarify its stance over such a case], and the main reason [they have] is that the media have been chasing for an answer on whether the sites would be seized during the week.'

The office of the Secretary for Transport and Public Works issued a statement last night saying: 'Regarding the sale and transfer of five pieces of land in which illegal conduct was involved, the government will wait for final confirmation of the previous court ruling early next week, and then initiate relevant procedures as soon as possible in accordance with the law and past experience in handling the land related to Ao Man-long.

'We will not rule out the possibility of declaring the sale of the five pieces of land as invalid.

'The government reiterated that it would enforce the court ruling and handle the case in line with the law, and follow statutory procedures to announce the government's decision at an appropriate time.'

The bidding for the five parcels of land opposite the Macau airport was won in 2005by Moon Ocean, a company previously owned by Lo and now owned by Chinese Estates. The Macau court heard the tycoons offered Ao HK$20 million over the bid. Lau and Lo were charged with bribery and money laundering. They both deny the charges and face trial.

Macau lawmaker Antonio Ng Kuok-cheong said buyers might sue the developer if the government seized the site and Chinese Estates did not refund their money.