Ajax to conduct own audit for court

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 May, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 May, 1995, 12:00am

THE firm convicted in Hong Kong's first successful corporate manslaughter case is to use its own staff to carry out a court-ordered audit of its finances.

The investigation was ordered by Mr Justice Duffy on Monday after the company, Ajax Engineers and Surveyors (AES), said its assets had plunged from $2.9 million in 1993 to $100,000 earlier this year.

AES is facing an unlimited fine after it admitted failing to carry out proper safety checks on a builders' lift which plunged to the ground killing 12 workers in June 1993.

Mr Justice Duffy said he wanted a statement prepared by June 12 showing the firm's assets and liabilities.

Last night Kasim Moosa, a former director of AES who is now a director of sister company Ajax and Partners, confirmed the audit would be done by in-house staff rather than an independent consultant. 'One auditing clerk will do the work. He is used to doing this kind of thing,' he said.

Mr Moosa, whose son, Hassan, is a shareholder in parent company Ajax Prosperity, said the clerk would be helped by AES director Stephen Lo King-wing.

'He will know the auditing system,' Mr Moosa said.

Mr Lo, who was in Australia when Mr Justice Duffy made his ruling, is expected to return next week.

Mr Moosa, who is also managing director of Ocean Shipbuilding & Engineering, a Shun Tak Holdings subsidiary, also said AES assets were much greater than the $100,000 mentioned in court.

Prosecutor Gary Plowman said defence lawyers claimed $2 million had been injected into AES to cover any fine on the corporate manslaughter charge.

Mr Plowman said defence lawyer Shane Cunningham was about to mention the cash advance in court when he was cut short by Mr Justice Duffy.

But Mr Moosa was reluctant to answer further questions, especially about how his son became a shareholder in Ajax Prosperity while still a student.

'I can't tell you,' he said.

Inquiries by the Post yesterday revealed Mr Lo transferred ownership of his Argyle Street home to Lo Kwok Wan-sing in April last year.

Documents obtained from the Land Registry show Mr Lo paid just over $1 million in 1987 for the sixth-floor flat at Mandarin Court in Mongkok.

But he gave it away for free to Mrs Lo on April 6 last year, five months after AES was charged with corporate manslaughter.

Estate agents said flats in Mandarin Court were worth between $4 million and $6.5 million.

Once the corporate manslaughter case is over, AES directors, including Mr Lo, might face civil action from the families of the victims of the Java Road disaster.

This follows revelations that it was company policy for senior safety inspectors to sign certificates saying they had examined equipment when junior engineers had been sent instead.