Macau graft trial involving tycoons is delayed again

Prolonged absence of judge means bribery claim against Joseph Lau and Steven Lo is unlikely to be heard for several more months

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 January, 2013, 4:06am

The corruption trial of Hong Kong tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing, which is due to start on Monday in Macau, may be adjourned again because of legal snags arising from the absence of the judge.

The case against the pair, accused of offering a HK$20 million bribe to Macau's disgraced former public works chief Ao Man-long, was scheduled for September but was adjourned for three months because presiding judge Alice Costa was sick.

A Macau source close to the case told the South China Morning Post witness statements and related legal documents had not been served to the prosecution or defence due to Costa's absence.

"There has not been any progress in these three months. As she was absent, many documents had just been put on her desk" without any further action taken, the source said.

The court is expected to announce the adjournment date on Monday, the source said, adding that it could be postponed for several more months.

It was not known whether Costa, Lau and Lo would appear in court next week.

But the court list on the Macau judiciary's website showed that the trial was scheduled for Monday to Thursday next week and January 16 to 18.

Lau, chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, broke his silence on New Year's Eve when he was confronted by reporters outside a Wan Chai restaurant. He urged Beijing to show concern about corruption in Hong Kong and Macau.

Lau and fellow tycoon Lo, who is chairman of BMA Investment, are accused of bribing Ao to secure land in 2005 for the La Scala luxury residential project - a deal that Macau's government voided last year. Ao was sentenced to 29 years in jail in May, partly, on charges of accepting a bribe from the developers.

Meanwhile, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung will visit Macau on Monday to sign an agreement to enable both places to recognise and enforce each other's arbitration awards.