Sales of La Scala flats halted
Sales of luxury apartments at the centre of a corruption case involving two Hong Kong tycoons have been halted - and people who have already put down money to buy flats are not happy.
The Macau government has not ruled out invalidating the purchase of the land on which the flats are being built, after disgraced former Macau public works chief Ao Man-long was found guilty of accepting a HK$20 million bribe to secure the land for developers.
The land was sold to Moon Ocean, a company previously owned by Steven Lo Kit-sing and now owned by Joseph Lau Luen-hung's Chinese Estates. Macau's Court of Final Appeal heard Ao received HK$20 million from the two tycoons in 2005.
Lau and Lo, who deny charges of bribery and money laundering, face trial.
Industry sources said Hong Kong-listed Chinese Estates had decided to suspend sales at La Scala. Prior to Ao's latest trial, 300 flats had been sold there. The HK$20 billion development will have 4,000 flats.
'I have not heard of any successful transaction since early May,' said a Macau insider. 'Many clients do not like La Scala now and some buyers have demanded compensation.'
But while the Hong Kong sales hotline for La Scala was switched off yesterday, the Macau sales office still accepted an appointment to visit the show flat, and said bookings were full until next Saturday.
Ao, who was already serving jailed terms of 281/2 years following two previous convictions, was sentenced to 29 years' jail, to be served concurrently, for corruption and money laundering.
Macau resident Kuong Pak-hou, 50, who signed a contract in March to buy a 1,200 sq ft apartment at La Scala for 7 million patacas, said he would consider taking legal action against the developer and the government, with other buyers, to reclaim the money if the land purchase was invalidated.
He said Chinese Estates had agreed to postpone payment of his third instalment to next month; he has so far paid more than 800,000 patacas, including 170,000 patacas in stamp duty to the government.
'When the Macau government approved Chinese Estates for the development, it should have considered the possible consequences. And there was no warning now that something has happened,' Kuong said.
Meanwhile, Macau's Legal Affairs Bureau confirmed that the number of flats at La Scala and other construction data has not been formally registered with the government yet.
Iau Teng-pio, assistant law professor at the University of Macau, said that without the registration, a developer had no obligation to finish a project as long as it gave buyers their money back and the same again in compensation. Macau's Legislative Council is discussing making registration a legal requirement.
A spokeswoman for Chinese Estates said the company would not comment on individual inquiries from the media and would give a statement if it had any updates on its situation.
The size of the bribe, in Hong Kong dollars, which Macau official Ao Man-long received.
-300 La Scala flats have already been sold