Jailed tycoon's firm bids for aircraft carrier
A Hong Kong company owned by disgraced retail tycoon Wong Kwong-yu has tendered a bid for a decommissioned British aircraft carrier, the HMS Ark Royal, and plans to turn it into a floating showcase for hi-tech products.
Zhao Qiguang , a spokesman for Hong Kong-based Eagle Vantage Asset Management, confirmed the bid, saying: 'We made the tender in May, and the result may come as early as Friday.'
Wong, the founder of Hong Kong-listed Gome Electrical Appliances Holdings, is serving a 14-year prison sentence on the mainland after his conviction last year for bribery. He is the major beneficiary and a large Eagle Vantage shareholder. Asked about Wong's involvement in the bid, Zhao said: 'The top management of our company made the decision, which had nothing to do with Wong.'
He declined to reveal the amount of money which had been earmarked for the potential aircraft carrier deal. Asked if Wong was aware of the bid, Zhao said: 'The amount is not that large, and he [Wong] is not directly involved.'
Zhao also drew a line between Eagle Vantage and Gome, saying: 'Our company hardly has any direct relations with Gome.'
Zhao said that, as a Hong Kong-based company, it would tow the warship to Hong Kong or Macau before refitting it with hi-tech products and transforming it into a showcase for potential customers. Zhao said the ship would be used only for commercial purposes, but Macau-based military expert Anthony Wong Dong said he was sure that 'technological officers with the People's Liberation Army would launch a thorough examination of the warship before any business operations'.
However, he added that the carrier was of little military value, given its size of about 19,000 tonnes.
In 1998, when a businessman in Macau who had a background in the PLA succeeded in buying a half-built Soviet aircraft carrier called the Varyag for US$20 million, he said he planned to convert it into a floating casino. But after the US learned through Portugal that the Macau government had received no application for such a project, the US pressured Turkey through Nato to stop the Varyag leaving the Black Sea.
In early 2002, Beijing eventually got permission from Turkey to take the carrier to Dalian, a port city in northeastern Liaoning province , for renovations. The reconstruction of the Varyag, now dubbed China's first aircraft carrier, is almost complete, and the ship is to make its maiden launch in a few weeks.
Once a flagship vessel of the British Royal Navy, the Ark Royal was decommissioned and put up for auction after serving for a quarter of a century.