Macau media take aim over casino stake

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2007, 12:00am

The Macau press yesterday gave prominent coverage to the disclosure of Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah's stake in a casino empire.

The South China Morning Post reported on Monday that a paper trail of Hong Kong corporate filings show Mr Ho and his two brothers have an indirect interest in casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun's STDM.

According to the filings, the Ho brothers have a 3.3 per cent stake estimated to be worth more than HK$100 million in Many Town, a Hong Kong firm that holds a 9 per cent stake in Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau (STDM) and a 1.8 per cent indirect interest in Shun Tak Holdings.

The pro-government Macao Daily News, the city's largest newspaper, carried a follow-up story on its front page and two pieces inside.

'The shadow of doubt has again been cast on the financial situation of a government official. This time the fire has spread to Chief Executive Ho Hau-wah,' the Chinese-language newspaper said.

Government information officers only repeated to the newspaper what they told the Post at the weekend, that Edmund Ho transferred his interest to a brother in 1995 and was no longer involved with Many Town.

But corporate filings do not reflect the transfer and have continuously listed Edmund Ho and his brothers as the beneficial owners of the 3.3 per cent stake in Many Town since 1993.

A main story also ran in Jornal Va Kio, Macau's second-largest newspaper.

It quoted unidentified people saying Edmund Ho must clarify his situation as soon as possible to save his credibility. Government broadcaster Teledifus?o de Macau ran the story on its Chinese-language television channel.

Veteran Macau observer Camoes Tam Chi-keung said self-censorship was not unusual among the city's media, especially when it came to embarrassing issues for key officials. But traditionally pro-government media had been emboldened by Edmund Ho losing favour with Beijing and local people.

The University of Macau lecturer said: 'They have smelled the scent of Beijing's dislike. So why not seize the opportunity to boost circulation?'