Family of crooked policeman is given approval to sell flats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 September, 2009, 12:00am

The family of a crooked police sergeant who amassed a fortune through bribery in the 1960s has been given approval to sell three of his properties after a judge cleared a title problem yesterday.

The deal involves three flats on the first floor of Kin Yu Mansion in Belcher's Street, Kennedy Town, which the family of Hon Kwing-shum, alias Hon Shum or Hon Sum, wanted to sell to Talent Player, a unit of Wheelock, for HK$1.4 million each in 2007. The company had questioned whether the family had a genuine claim to the properties, said Mok Yeuk-chi, barrister for the firm.

The problem stemmed from a restraint order graft-busters had obtained from the District Court to freeze the sergeant's multimillion-dollar assets in November 1975 during an investigation launched under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

After Hon's death in 1999, the government filed a writ in July 2000 seeking to recover assets from his estate frozen by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. This resulted in one of the biggest settlements in the commission's history, with the family agreeing to give up HK$140 million in assets in 2006 in an out-of-court deal.

Hon served in the Royal Hong Kong Police from September 1940 until he retired in August 1971. By that time he controlled 49 properties then worth HK$2.12 million and had HK$1.24 million in investments, HK$703,000 in bank accounts, and two Mercedes-Benz cars, worth HK$78,911.

He was able to accumulate the fortune of almost HK$5 million despite earning a total of HK$193,852 in wages during his 31 years on the force. The government had alleged the assets were 'disproportionate to and could not be explained or accounted for by his official emoluments, awards, or allowance'.

Mok said yesterday that the company wanted the Court of First Instance to rule whether the three properties in Belcher's Street were held on behalf of Hon and whether his family still had control of them under the restriction imposed by the District Court in the 1970s.

The court heard the company was worried whether ownership had passed to the government.

Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes held that the three properties, held under the name of Hon's widow, Wan Lin, and his concubine Kan Suk-ying, both of whom are dead, could be freely disposed of.

Reyes found the properties were unaffected by the restraint order, which had been revoked by the settlement between the ICAC and Hon's family in 2006. He also said there was no evidence suggesting they were held on behalf of Hon, and therefore the restriction failed to apply.

Hon was born on Cheung Chau and became one of the four most powerful station sergeants in the 1960s. He moved to Canada shortly after retiring.

In 1977, a city court issued a warrant to extradite him to Hong Kong but he contested this and won the case. He then moved to Taiwan and died in Taipei in August 1999.

In 2000 when the government sought to reclaim his estate in Hong Kong, media coverage revealed Hon was believed to have more than HK$200 million in assets. In January last year, the government sold five of his properties in an auction for a total of HK$15 million.