485 arrested in Macau's biggest vote-buying scandal

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 September, 2005, 12:00am

An unprecedented case of vote-buying in Macau was revealed yesterday as anti-corruption authorities arrested 485 suspects for organised crime and illegally withholding voter identification cards.

The case involves three subsidiaries of one company. One executive director of the parent company is a candidate in the September 25 Legislative Assembly election.

In April, a memo was sent to staff of two subsidiaries, demanding the support of all employees.

'Since our boss is running in the election this year, naturally the company should rigorously support him,' stated the memo, addressed to all department heads. 'Would all colleagues please get the support of your friends and families. Attached is a form for your use ... If you already have a voter card, please provide a copy.'

The human resources departments of the three subsidiaries asked all staff to provide voter data of 10 family members or friends.

'At first, staff were asked to provide data on three other people, but later, that was increased to 10,' said Pedro Wong Chi-hou, acting chief of the Commission Against Corruption of Macau.

In return for providing the voter registration cards, each voter received 500 patacas, Mr Wong said. On three occasions in May, the department heads submitted more than 400 voter identification cards to the parent company's executives, receiving more than 205,000 patacas in return. The department heads then distributed the payment to their staff.

Of the 485 suspects, 120 allegedly played the role of middleman, distributing payment and collecting voter cards. Mr Wong said the strategy was to withhold voter cards until election day, when designated vehicles were to be arranged to shuttle the bribed voters to a polling station.

The investigation started in May when a resident tipped off anti-corruption authorities, leading to the arrest of a man at a restaurant in Taipa. Voter cards belonging to several other people were found in his possession.

Competition is fierce in this year's direct election for the Legislative Assembly. A total of 18 candidate lists, comprising 127 candidates, are vying for 12 seats.