Hong Kong tycoons' corruption trial in Macau adjourned due to illness

Hong Kong businessman Joseph Lau is too ill to attend hearing, his lawyer tells Macau court

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2013, 6:27am

The corruption trial of Hong Kong tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing in Macau has again been adjourned, this time because one of the defendants is sick.

They are charged with offering a HK$20 million bribe to Macau's former public works chief Ao Man-long in 2005. Ao was jailed for 29 years in May.

The case, originally scheduled for September, had been adjourned until yesterday because the presiding judge Alice Costa was sick. She was replaced by Mario Augusto Silvestre.

At Macau's Court of First Instance yesterday, Lau's lawyer Leong Weng-pun submitted a letter from his doctor, certifying that he was suffering from a chronic disease and was unable to attend the hearing.

But the application for absence was opposed by Deputy Prosecutor-General Paulo Chan, who said Lau had been seen in the media and appeared to be well. "We learned that Lau's health was good from the media. He can still go for yum cha and eat outside. The Public Prosecution Office considers it a deliberate delay. He is absent without a reasonable explanation," he said.

Leong said his client's health was unpredictable. Being able to eat out previously did not mean he could eat out now, he said.

The case involves eight defendants. But only Lo and Fong Chun-yau, former manager of Atal Engineering, were in court. Pedro Redinha, lawyer for co-defendant Luc Vriens, chief executive of Waterleau, said Vriens was in Belgium. He was going to Morocco to work, and was therefore unable to attend the hearing.

Silvestre accepted Lau and Vriens' absence, but said Lau's medical certificate had not stated when he would be able to attend. He ordered Leong to provide a detailed medical report within 10 days for the court to decide when the trial could continue.

Leong and Rui Sousa, Lo's lawyer, said that it was unacceptable that they were only allowed to view a few pages of Ao's schedules and notebooks - key evidence Macau's anti-corruption agents used to prove Ao's deal with Lo and Lau.

Silvestre said not all the documents could be disclosed because Macau's Commission Against Corruption was still investigating the case. The court would write to the commission to see if they could be disclosed.

Sousa and Redinha had applied to the court to allow six witnesses to make written depositions overseas, including Antonio Lourenco, Ao's former colleague who would testify in Portugal. The witnesses were due to reply within three months. Silvestre said he would reschedule the trial with those dates in mind.