Beleaguered Franklin Lam backs off remarks about deal with agent
The saga involving executive councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung and his property sales took another turn on Thursday morning, when he changed what he previously said about allowing his agent to pocket the difference between his asking price and sale price for one of his two Mid-Level flats.
Lam said on a radio programme that he actually planned to donate the difference to charity.
He made the remarks after the Democratic Party’s chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting launched a complaint to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday to demand an investigation into Lam selling two flats just weeks before new curbs on home sales.
Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, 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 earlier 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. 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.
He believed no buyers would accept Lam’s offer if the buyers knew the price could actually go lower.
In a U-turn on Thursday, Franklin Lam said he actually allowed the agent to take only a one per cent commission. The difference between the asking price and the sale price would be donated to charity, he said.
He said he offered the agent the difference, but the agent suggested the money be donated to charity. Lam said this verbal agreement over the donation was not written into the contract.
Lam said on Thursday that his asking price for flat B on the 14th floor of Casa Bella was HK$9.88 million, and it was sold at HK$9.95 million. He will donate the HK$70,000 to charity. He did not mention another flat - flat C on the same floor - that he sold.