Franklin Lam Fan-keung

Estate Agents Authority examines Franklin Lam flat sales affair

Authority examines case after it is revealed buyer of one of properties was not aware of Exco man's alleged offer of extra commission to agent

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 3:25am

The Estate Agents Authority is examining whether irregularities were involved in the controversial sale of flats owned by Executive Councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung.

The move came after it emerged that the buyer of one of the properties was understood to be unaware of Lam's alleged offer of extra commission to the agent.

A spokeswoman for the authority said: "We would not comment on individual cases … but the authority is trying to get an understanding of the case."

She said the authority would will not rule out launching a formal investigation if evidence of non-compliance was found.

The authority said earlier this month that agents should disclose the amount of commission received from both the buyer and the seller.

Consensus should also be obtained from the two parties and the agent's employer.

Any violation could be an offence under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

Its comments came after Lam disclosed last month that he had offered his agent an extra commission - the difference between the transaction price and the asking price - as he tried to deflect controversy over his alleged use of inside information obtained as a member of the Executive Council.

Lam is accused of using the information to sell two of his 27 properties - flats 14B and 14C at Casa Bella, Mid-Levels - before the government announced the imposition of new measures to cool the property market.

The new measures imposed a 15 per cent stamp duty on purchases by non-local and corporate buyers.

The South China Morning Post understands the buyer of flat 14B, Danny Zhou Weixi, did not know of Lam's offer to the agent.

This would mean Lam did not obtain agreement from the buyer when suggesting the extra commission to his agent.

But the new stamp duty apparently would not have applied to the sale since Zhou, a 24-year-old private equity specialist, is a Hong Kong permanent resident even though he was born in Guangzhou.

Centaline Property Agency denied its agent had received "excessive proceeds" over and above the usual 1 per cent of the sale price.

Lam claimed the extra money would go to an environmental group. But further questions were raised when the sale and purchase agreement for flat 14B was found to show that the agent named by Lam, Danny Leung Chi-yan, was, in fact, the witness to the transaction and the actual agent was Maggie Lai Sau-yung.

Lai was reported by East Week Magazine to have been contacted by the ICAC, which is now investigating the case.

Lawmakers of the Civic Party will seek the Legco house committee's support for a motion to adjourn its meeting next Wednesday for a discussion of the affair.

Meanwhile, the Post found that the 16 companies in which Lam declared an interest to the Executive Council had outstanding "mortgages and charges" totalling HK$181.77 million. The figure was obtained from the annual returns of the 16 companies, which hold 22 of his properties.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said the figure largely represents the value of mortgages, as "charges" only referred to miscellaneous fees such as outstanding building management fees.