Mak Chai-Kwong, born in 1950, began his civil service career in Hong Kong in 1976. He held a series of high-ranking government engineering jobs. Mak was appointed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying as the Secretary for Development in July 2012, but was soon forced to resign when allegation surfaced that he was involved in a housing subsidy fraud more than 20 years ago. He was formally charged with cheating on government rent allowances in October 2012.
Former minister Mak Chai-kwong denies he deceived
Mak Chai-kwong told ICAC investigators that his wife's name was on lease for simplicity and he had no intention of covering up interests
Former development minister Mak Chai-kwong denied allegations that he had made a premeditated arrangement with assistant highways director Tsang King-man to cross-lease their flats in which they had a financial interest, a court heard yesterday.
Mak, who is being tried over housing fraud, also denied telling lies in a joint statement he drafted with Tsang after the media exposed the event in July last year.
The prosecution played Mak's recorded interviews, made under caution, with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, on the sixth day of the trial in District Court.
Tsang, 57, and Mak, 62, are accused of defrauding the government of HK$700,000 in housing allowances by using two properties in which they had a financial interest. Mak also faces two counts, and Tsang three counts, of using documents with intent to deceive the government. They have denied the charges.
In the interview Mak said he met Tsang by chance in the queue to buy the flats at City Garden in North Point in 1985. "I had no intention … to deceive for money," he said.
The same year, Mak bought unit 21E and Tsang bought the flat one floor above, 22E.
The prosecution alleged that they entered into a fraudulent arrangement to purchase the two flats and leased them to each other in the names of their wives, thereby concealing their financial interests in the flats.
Mak said listing his wife as landlord on the lease agreement with Tsang was to simplify the arrangement, and he had no intention of covering anything up.
"If I did not lease the flat [to Tsang], I would have leased it to others to earn rental income to pay the mortgage," he said.
The prosecution earlier said that the pair allegedly swapped the flats in 1990, but the ICAC found no documents to substantiate this. When they later sold the flats they were living in, they pocketed the sales proceeds.
The prosecution holds that, at all times, Mak was the true owner of 22E and Tsang the actual owner of 21E. But Mak said when Tsang wanted to sell 22E in 1990, it was occupied by a tenant. He said they swapped because Tsang did not want to sell a flat carrying a tenancy agreement.
The graft-busters found that the pair exchanged e-mails to discuss a joint declaration after the incident was exposed by the media in July last year.
And factual matters, such as when the flats were swapped and sold, given in the statement were amended after discussion, the court heard.
When asked by an ICAC officer if he had any intention of making things up in the statement, Mak replied: "I have no such intention."