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Corruption in China

Macau graft trial highlights flaws in political system

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2007, 12:00am

The trial of former minister Ao Man-long has provided a good opportunity to identify loopholes in Macau's political system which needs to be reformed, critics say.

Hanging on Ao's coat-tails, a man and his daughter successively became board members of public utility Companhia de Electricidade de Macau (CEM), the city's sole supplier of electricity, the Court of Final Appeal was told on Monday.

In defence, the former secretary for transport and public works said it was perfectly legal for him to put anyone in the job, as there was no rule regarding a candidate's calibre.

In 2002, Ao instructed CEM executives to accept businessman Lee Se-cheung, a friend for 20 years of his brother Ao Man-fu, as a member of the board, the prosecution alleged.

But Lee never attended CEM's board meetings or satisfied the obligation of reporting to the government, the court heard.

Three months after Lee's death in June last year, Ao arranged for Lee's daughter, Lee Yin-wai, a fresh university graduate, to fill the post left vacant by him, according to the prosecution.

'Knowing Lee Yin-wai had no work experience, the defendant gave instructions to let her take the job,' the prosecution statement said.

But the defendant said he had carte blanche to arrange for anyone to take the job, although he only 'recommended' the appointments.

Secretary for Administration and Justice Florinda da Rosa Silva Chan brought in the Roadmap for Public Administration Reform in July, in an effort to beef up the system and stamp out nepotism.

A public consultation is being carried out on the proposed reforms.

Legislator Ng Kuok-cheong urged the government to carry out true reforms rather than running round in circles with consultations.

'Since 2000, the government has been studying the feasibility of reforms. Ms Chan has said repeatedly that she will 'study' and 'follow up',' Mr Ng said.

Political commentator Larry So Man-yum called for clear rules regarding the appointment of public utility directors and officials.

'There should be clear guidelines, approved by the Executive Council, on how to gauge the capability of candidates,' Mr So said.

He said the trial would allow people in and out of Macau to have a better understanding of its political system and put pressure on the government to reform.

The trial resumes today with the former minister defending himself against two counts of abuse of power relating to the appointments.

Lee Se-cheung was also a shareholder of Ecoline Property, a shell company allegedly controlled by the former minister, for money laundering.

Two other shell companies listed by the prosecution were Citygrand Management and Best Choice Asset, both of which, like Ecoline, were registered in the British Virgin Islands.

The three companies held various bank accounts in Hong Kong, Macau and Britain, which the defendant used to shuffle kickbacks from developers, according to the prosecution.

The former public works minister was arrested last December. He faces 76 counts of bribe-taking, money laundering, making false statements and abuse of power.