Sun Hung Kai Properties

Both sides seek out top overseas lawyers in Kwok brothers graft trial

Heavyweight with a 95pc conviction rate likely to face fraud specialist involved in Assange case

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2012, 4:28am

The billionaire Kwok brothers' bribery trial is set to become a battleground of expensive overseas lawyers, as both the prosecution and the defendants reach outside the city to secure top legal talent for the case.

On the government side is likely to be Lord Kenneth MacDonald QC, the former Director of Public Prosecutions of England and Wales, who has been credited with conviction rates of up to 95 per cent.

The defence team may include former British deputy high court judge and fraud specialist Clare Montgomery QC, who recently acted for the Swedish government in its bid to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The news emerged yesterday when Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos SC applied for the case to be adjourned until next year to allow the prosecution to seek court permission to hire MacDonald.

Graft-busters have charged Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 61, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 59 - the co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties - and former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, 64, with bribery and misconduct in public office. The Kwoks allegedly paid Hui more than HK$34 million in bribes.

Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, 66, Sun Hung Kai's executive director, and Francis Kwan Hung-sang, 62, a former Hong Kong Stock Exchange official, have been charged with conspiring with the Kwoks to offer some of the bribes.

Seeking the adjournment yesterday, Zervos revealed that three of the five defendants would engage overseas lawyers.

While it was understood Thomas Kwok was approaching Montgomery, it was not known whom his brother Raymond Kwok was hiring or who the third defendant seeking overseas help was.

MacDonald is known for establishing the Fraud Prosecution Service during his term as chief prosecutor. In 2008, he was listed the fourth most influential UK lawyer by Times Law 100.

Zervos said the prosecution also needed more time to collect evidence from overseas and prepare court documents.

The tycoon brothers, meanwhile, have changed their local counsel. Thomas Kwok, who was represented in July by Lawrence Lok SC, is now represented by Graham Harris SC. Gerard McCoy SC has replaced Clive Grossman SC in defending Raymond Kwok.

The Hong Kong Bar Association is expected to object to the hiring of the seas barristers.

Acting Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai adjourned the case until January 25, when she will decide whether to transfer the case to the Court of First Instance.