Firm's director 'knew of subletting'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 10:54pm


The assertion by the wife of new development minister Paul Chan Mo-po that she was unaware a company on whose board both once sat owns two subdivided flats was called into question yesterday.

That's because their principal tenant, Wu Ho-yin, said he had told a director of the company that the flats were sublet to multiple tenants.

A day earlier Wu had denied the company was informed of the flats' illegal partitioning.

News of the subdivided flats has caused fresh controversy for the administration of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Chan and his wife, Frieda Hui Po-ming, are both former directors of the company, Harvest Charm Development. Hui quit its board as recently as July 1. Chan resigned as a director in 1997.

The company's shareholders are two offshore companies, which also own the couple's home in Leighton Hill, Causeway Bay. It's not known who owns the offshore companies or why Hui quit Harvest Charm's board the day the new government took office.

Chan only became development minister after the previous appointee, Mak Chai-kwong, resigned two weeks into the job following his arrest by the Independent Commission of Corruption on suspicion of bribery in connection with his alleged abuse of civil service housing allowance in the 1980s.

Hui did not respond yesterday to requests for comment. Neither she nor Chan has faced the public since the existence of the subdivided flats became known a day after his appointment on Monday.

In a statement on Wednesday, Hui suggested neither she nor Harvest Charm had been informed the flats, in Tai Kok Tsui and Jordan, had been partitioned. She said a lease condition specified the tenant should not sublet the flats. She also said she was not involved in Harvest Charm's day-to-day operations.

Yesterday Wu, who has faced two days of media questioning, said he did not know the leaseholder was a company associated with Chan's wife until he read news reports.

Wu, who earns his living by subletting divided flats, also described his relationship with Au Cheung-shing, a former director of Harvest Charm who was reappointed to its board last month.

He said a tenant had introduced him to Au, who leased to Wu a Tai Kok Tsui property for HK$4,000 in 2006 and another property in Jordan for HK$4,600 in 2010 - a reference to the flats Harvest Charm owns. One is divided into three units, the other into five. The units range in size from 80 to 100 square feet and are rented out for between HK$1,300 and HK$2,300 a month. Some have no windows and the fire escape is blocked - an infringement that could cost Wu a fine of HK$100,000.

Speaking of Au, 70, Wu said: 'He's my life-saver. He tipped me off on flats for leasing. He didn't increase the rent in the past few years and even did not receive rent from me for two months to allow me more time to look for tenants.'

Wu sublets at least 10 properties in Yau Tsim Mong and Wan Chai. He also owns a Tai Po flat, yielding about HK$30,000 a month. 'I'm not making a huge profit and the subdivided flats provided the grass-roots community an affordable shelter,' Wu said.

He said he hoped the Buildings Department would allow him to restore the flats before considering prosecution.

Wu's tenancy with Harvest Charm was terminated yesterday.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor sidestepped questions about whether Chan should step down, but Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun called for Chan's resignation.