POLITICS

Franklin Lam Fan-keung

Exco member Franklin Lam faces fresh claims over timing of flat sales

Exco newcomer rebuts claims that he turned down offers on property, then sold only weeks before measures to cut property prices

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 October, 2012, 6:25pm

A property agent claims to have approached Franklin Lam Fan-keung, now an executive council member, to help sell one of his Mid-Levels flats in the months before new curbs on home sales, but was turned down.

The agent's claims yesterday put a new twist on a row surrounding Lam, an Exco newcomer, who was found to have sold the two properties just weeks before the government unveiled surprise measures on Friday to bring down property prices.

Lam, who is also a property analyst, faces calls from lawmakers for an investigation.

The property agent, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the South China Morning Post: "We had clients interested in his flat. We gave him offers several times to sell it. Our last effort was made in early September. But he refused to sell. A few weeks later [on September 20] he sold it."

Lam was the owner of flats B and C on the 14th floor of Casa Bella at 117 Caine Road. He made HK$10 million from the sales.

Last night, Lam rebutted the agent's remarks, saying he put up the two flats for sale at the end of June, before he joined Exco.

Legislator Starry Lee Wai-king, Lam's colleague in Exco, admitted property market trends had been discussed in Exco, but said the exact measures were not disclosed until shortly before Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah announced them on Friday. A government source with knowledge of Exco affairs said Lam was unaware that the measures were being planned before selling the flats.

Lam said several agents had approached him over the one of the flats, but that he had his own criteria for who the buyer should be. For example, he said, he wanted the person to be an actual user of the flat, not a speculator.

He also said the prices in some of the offers were "way below market price".

Information from the Land Registry shows flat B was sold to a person named Zhou Weixi; the spelling of the name suggests a mainlander.

Mainland buyers are a prime target of one of the new property measures - a stamp duty of 15 per cent on non-permanent-resident and corporate buyers. The other raises and extends stamp duty payable on quick resales.

Information from the Securities and Futures Commission shows a person called Zhou Weixi held a licence between August last year and September this year to trade on the securities and futures market. Zhou worked for a multinational financial services corporation, it shows,

The popular social networking site LinkedIn shows a person of that name worked for the corporation as an analyst.

Lawmakers from across the political spectrum demand that Lam clarify further the sale of the flats.

A Democrat "super seat" legislator, James To Kun-sun, said the government should investigate the sales.

James Tien Pei-chun, honorary chairman of the Liberal Party, said Lam had not declared whether he had taken part in early-stage discussions of the new stamp duties.

Albert Chan Wai-yip of People Power demanded Lam resign from Exco.