Lawyers for Hong Kong fugitive in Spanish jail says he could soon be freed
Lawyer for the former Grant Thornton partner says the city has no power to order extradition
Niall Fraser and Miguel Carbonell in Madrid
A former top Hong Kong accountant who has spent the past two years battling extradition to the city from Spain could be freed from prison "within two or three months'', according to one of his lawyers.
Gabriel Ricardo Dias-Azedo, 66, a former Grant Thornton partner who fled Hong Kong in 2009 after allegedly fleecing clients of HK$94 million, has been held in a Spanish jail since 2010.
He is waiting for the country's highest court to rule on a claim by his legal team that he cannot be sent back to the city to face fraud charges because only Beijing has the power to issue extradition orders and his safety cannot be guaranteed on the mainland.
One of Azedo's lawyers, Rodrigo Martin, told the Sunday Morning Post that Spain's Constitutional Court "has no other choice but to rule in their favour because there is no possible extradition to an 'almost state' like Hong Kong".
He said that Azedo could be out of jail within "two or three months''.
Hong Kong officials reject this claim and say he can be returned under the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which has been signed by both jurisdictions.
Martin's claim comes ahead of a visit to Madrid on Thursday by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, during which she is due to finalise an agreement between Hong Kong and Spain on the return of sentenced prisoners between the two jurisdictions.
While the agreement is unlikely to have a concrete effect on Azedo's case, the fugitive accountant's return to Hong Kong is expected to be discussed by Lam and Spanish legal officials.
Macau-born Hong Kong resident Azedo, a racehorse owner and former president of the Hong Kong Portuguese community's Club Lusitano, is being kept in the Estremera prison near Madrid after being arrested in Salamanca, Spain, in 2010.
Documents seen by the Post this year, which were presented to the Spanish courts by Hong Kong police, show that Azedo allegedly funnelled millions into bank accounts and offshore companies linked to his wife and himself.
He is also suspected of using millions more to pay off credit card debts and money owed to, among others, Betty da Silva Fei Po-ki, the wife of Archie da Silva, owner of what is arguably Hong Kong's most famous racehorse, Silent Witness.