Kuk chief denies knowledge of firms in alleged $480m scam
Rural leader and lawmaker Lau Wong-fat denied in court yesterday any involvement with five companies alleged to be at the centre of a $480 million scam at a troubled luxury development in Tuen Mun.
The Heung Yee Kuk chairman said he had been granted development rights by the government for the land on which Villa Pinada was built, and had entered into a joint venture with the brother of one of two men now facing fraud charges in relation to the project.
He said he was not involved in the operation of the site, but would be informed if anything went wrong.
Mr Lau was giving evidence for the prosecution in the case in which Tai Chi-wah, 49, and Lim Hau-chun, 52, have denied three counts of conspiracy to defraud and five charges of furnishing false information.
Tai, former managing director of Gold Face Holdings, and Lim, director of True Gold Investments, are alleged to have used a series of shelf companies to defraud investors in the development, which collapsed in 2003.
Prosecutor Wong Po-wing alleged Tai and Lim had engaged four law firms to take deposits and act as shareholders for purchasers of the properties.
It was alleged the two directors made use of the five sham companies to create and inflate invoices for work supposedly performed at the site, later verified by Tai with forged architect's certificates. The certificates were then allegedly used to deceive the law firms into releasing money they had kept against completion. Mr Wong told the court earlier that the defendants said Mr Lau was the boss of the five companies, which were contractors employed by Tai.
But Mr Lau yesterday denied any knowledge of the companies.
He said he got involved in the project in about May 1998 because he knew Tai Chin-wah, the elder brother of Tai Chi-wah.
The legislator said he had entered a written agreement for a joint venture with Tai Chin-wah, who believed the venture was profitable.
The hearing continues today before Mr Justice Peter Nguyen.