Thomas Lau 'co-signed HK$20m cheque to Ao'
Hong Kong tycoon Thomas Lau Luen-hung was named in Macau's top court for the first time yesterday as having co-signed a HK$20 million cheque paid to jailed former transport chief Ao Man-long.
The Macau Court of Final Appeal was told that Ao had met tycoons Steven Lo Kit-sing or Joseph Lau Luen-hung - Thomas's older brother - or both, at least 11 times between 2005 and 2006 over the sale of five plots of land opposite the Macau airport.
Three Macau Independent Commission Against Corruption investigators made a Powerpoint presentation of an extensive range of documents confiscated from Ao's former home in late 2006 and other exhibits.
They were displayed in a five-hour session of Ao's trial on charges of bribery and money laundering.
Among the documents was a HK$20 million 'consultancy fee' cheque co-signed by Thomas and Joseph Lau in October 2005 to Eastern Base, a Macau company set up by Lo. The money was subsequently passed to Ecoline, a company controlled by Ao, after the sale of the airport land.
The bid was won in 2005 by international property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle, submitted on behalf of Moon Ocean, a Macau company now owned by Joseph Lau, the court has heard.
Senior Investigator Io Fu-chun presented Ao's notebooks and schedules to the court, showing that Ao, who controlled the land, intended to have them sold as early as 2004.
The notebooks contained notes including 'Lau Luen-hung', 'airport', 'land' and '20M'.
'This showed that Ao was highly concerned about the project,' he said.
The court also heard that Joseph Lau had hired a company, Hsin Yeh, to help design the development on the land four months before the bidding process began, which prompted complaints from competing bidder Sociedade de Turismo e Diversoes de Macau.
In a rare move, Ao broke his silence and defended himself yesterday, questioning the authenticity of some of the exhibits.
He said Ho Meng-fai - a fugitive former construction company owner - had introduced Joseph Lau and Lo to him during a dinner, and he had met them two to three times afterwards, not 11 times as suggested by investigators.
Io presented extensive border control and phone records, as well as restaurant invoices, showing that Lo and Joseph Lau had entered Macau and met Ao multiple times.
The call records showed that Ao did not directly call Lo, but called Ho, who would then make calls to Lo.
On many occasions, Ao would call Antonio Lourenco, who reviewed the bidding process, after calling Ho, the court heard.
In an October meeting after Moon Ocean won the land, Lo spent 18,000 patacas treating his assistant, Ao and Joseph Lau in a restaurant in a Macau hotel.
The five plots of land were worth 2 billion patacas in 1999 but were sold to Moon Ocean for 1.167 billion in 2005. Comparing the price to those of two pieces of government land sold in 2004 and 2008, Io said the Macau government could have earned 3.9 billion to 21.3 billion patacas more from the sale.
Ao, the former secretary for transport and public works in Macau, was jailed for 28 1/2 years in 2009 for corruption. He is accused of six new counts of taking bribes and three of money laundering in the case. The case continues next Wednesday.