HK tycoons named in big Macau bribes case
Macau's top court has named two Hong Kong business tycoons for the first time in a high-profile corruption case involving jailed former secretary for transport and public works Ao Man-long, Macau media reported.
The names of Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing came up at the third trial of Ao's multimillion-patacas graft case in the Court of Final Appeal yesterday.
Ao, who was sentenced to 281/2 years in 2009, entered no plea to six fresh counts of bribe taking and three counts of money laundering. He is accused of having received at least HK$20 million and 7.3 million patacas of bribes in six government projects. One of the projects was the tendering of five plots of land - measuring more than 78,000 square metres in total - opposite the Macau airport. Ao allegedly got HK$20 million in the tender.
Reading the indictment, Mr Justice Sam Hou-fai said Ao invited bids to buy the five sites in 2004. He received three tender documents from Lau's and Lo's companies.
An assessment committee concluded that none of the three tender documents met its requirements, but Lau and Lo won the bids through Ao's interference in the process, according to the indictment.
Entertainment tycoon Lo, who is chairman of BMA Investment and convenor of Hong Kong football team South China, denied having breached any Macau law. He said it was wrong for the media to report that his company won the bid because of Ao's interference.
'I have just been notified by Macau's Court of Final Appeal, asking me to be a witness in the [Ao Man-long] case,' he told the South China Morning Post last night. He declined to disclose any details of the case.
Lau, chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, could not be reached for comment last night.
Both Lau and Lo are members of the 1,193-strong Election Committee that voted for Hong Kong's next chief executive last month.
Other charges alleged that Ao had received 4 million patacas over the bidding of an industrial building project, and 3.3 million patacas in the tenders of two sewage treatment plants.
The court summoned two witnesses yesterday: Jaime Roberto Carion, director of the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau; and Chan Hon-kit, former deputy head of the bureau and now co-ordinator of the Infrastructure Development Office.
Carion told the court that it was an instruction from his supervisor at the government to invite bids for the industrial building instead of opening the tender process, to save time.
Chan testified that supervisors would give instructions on projects worth more than 10 million patacas. He said the companies appointed by supervisors would always win the bids.
Ao's first trial ended in January 2008 with his conviction of 57 counts of bribe taking, money laundering, power abuse and other charges. In his second trial, which concluded in April 2009, he was found guilty of 21 counts of bribe taking and three counts of money laundering.
The punishments for Ao's 81 counts of crimes would add up to 368 years and nine months in jail, judge Sam said at the time. That would greatly exceed the legal maximum of 30 years in Macau. Ao was then sentenced to 281/2 years, replacing the earlier 27-year term.
Ao is the highest-ranking Macau official to be charged and convicted for graft since the 1999 handover.
The case continues tomorrow before three judges.