Toy mogul in fresh controversy over car park
Joyce Ng, Jennifer Ngo and Ng Kang-chung
Toy tycoon Francis Choi Chee-ming has been plunged into a new land-use controversy after a basement car park at his Kowloon City mall was found to have been used as car dealers' showroom by his son's company, without government authorisation.
The Lands Department said yesterday it was seeking legal advice.
At the centre of the saga is a basement truck-parking area at the KCP shopping mall in Kowloon City, which was rented to Fastwheel, a car company owned by Choi's son, Karson. Last month, the 3,600 square metre parking area was found to have been converted into a car showroom, displaying vehicles imported from Europe and Japan.
Such land use is not allowed without first securing the Lands Department's approval and paying a premium. Officers inspected the site last week after complaints.
Francis Choi yesterday admitted to a plan to convert the car park into part of the mall, but the land-premium issue was not yet sorted out. 'They asked for almost HK$100 million. We are still discussing it with officials,' Choi said.
Speaking of his son's car business, Choi said: 'He is only good at buying new cars, not selling them. He designates his business partner Iris Yau to take care of the sales business.
'If we get the approval from the government, probably the area will be used to sell cars again.'
Choi, popularly known as the King of Toys, is the chairman of Early Light International Holdings - one of the world's top toy manufacturers.
Fastwheel manager Iris Yau argued they had only intended to help business friends who were affected by the recent closure of Auto Forum - another car park turned car showroom at private housing estate Aqua Marine in Cheung Sha Wan. The developer has rented the area to a department store.
'We had intended to offer help to business friends,' Yau said. 'So, we let them place their cars in the basement car park. But later it was found that they were doing business there. And last week, we received a notice from the Lands Department and so we asked them to move out.'
A visit by the South China Morning Post yesterday afternoon found that the basement parking space had been emptied. The entrance to the parking area was blocked off by signs. And it could not be reached by lifts in the mall either.
There was not a single car in sight. The ground looked clean and free of tyre marks, with freshly painted parking spaces.
A few employees of Fastwheel guarded the vehicle entrance.
One of them said that the cars had been driven away by yesterday morning.