ICAC probe urged into sale of flats by Exco member Franklin Lam
Exco member won't sell any more flats - except for two on the market
New executive councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung has promised not to buy or sell any more properties within his five-year term in the top policymaking body - after he sells two flats that are already on the market.
Lam's pledge failed to stop the Democratic Party from filing a complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption to demand an investigation into Lam selling two flats just weeks before new curbs on home sales. Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting, who was an ICAC investigator for about four years, said experience told him the graft-buster was likely to examine the case. "I can't see any reason why the ICAC will not look into it," he said yesterday.
Franklin Lam, a property analyst turned Executive Council member, is facing criticism after it was revealed this week that he sold two Casa Bella flats in Mid-Levels on September 20 and October 10 - just weeks before surprise measures were unveiled last Friday to cool the market.
Apart from those two flats, Lam said, he had also put two other flats up for sale at the end of June, before joining Exco in July.
One is a 10th-floor Casa Bella flat, which he bought in 2002 for HK$5.7 million. The other is a flat on the 51st floor of Sorrento Tower 1 in West Kowloon, which he bought in 2004 for HK$8.3 million. Each is about 1,000 sq ft. They would cost about HK$14 million and HK$25 million, respectively, on the market now.
He said he needed to sell the two remaining flats because the Exco appointment was his only full-time job. He had been donating his monthly pay of HK$64,180 to charity to prove he did not join the council for the money.
Lam Cheuk-ting said he suspected Franklin Lam might have breached the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance by offering illegal rebates to his agent. He noted that Franklin Lam said he had set the price of his flats 3 to 4 per cent below market value, and would allow the agent to pocket any difference between his asking price and the eventual sale price.
Franklin Lam said it was an incentive to motivate the agent to sell the flats faster. But Lam Cheuk-ting said Franklin Lam needed to get the buyer's approval first before letting the agent pocket the difference like a rebate. A failure to get a buyer's approval can constitute an illegal rebate, for which the offender can face up to seven years' jail and a fine of HK$500,000, he said.
In Beijing, Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah said the government did not discuss commercially sensitive policies such as the special stamp duty with Exco non-official members.