Police question three senior executives in HKMEx probe
Four staff from failed firm interviewed as government officials play down impact of founder Barry Cheung's resignation from public posts
Joshua But, Lana Lam and Bien Perez
The probe into the collapse of the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange has widened, with police questioning three senior executives of the failed commodities agency.
Separate sources confirmed yesterday that detectives from the commercial crime bureau had talked to a total of four staff from the exchange.
Meanwhile, government officials moved to shore up confidence in Leung Chun-ying's administration amid the growing controversy surrounding HKMEx founder Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who was formerly his top aide.
Cheung resigned from all his public duties - including executive councillor and head of the Urban Renewal Authority - on Friday and is himself under police investigation over the collapse, the government has said.
Speaking to the Sunday Morning Post yesterday, Cheung, 54, would say only: "Sorry, I am not taking calls today. I am at home with friends and family."
A police spokeswoman confirmed investigators spoke to a man named Cheung, aged 54, on Friday.
The spokeswoman refused to disclose how long the meeting lasted, where it took place, what was discussed or whether there would be more questions.
Three mainland men - Dai Linyi, 65; Li Shanrong, 49; and Lian Chunyan, 50 - were arrested on Tuesday and appeared in court on Friday to face charges of possessing false documents purporting to show they possessed or had access to several billion Hong Kong dollars.
The three were remanded in custody and the case was adjourned to July 19. A fourth man, arrested on Wednesday, was released on police bail.
Top officials said the impact of Cheung's resignation would be minimal.
Health chief Dr Ko Wing-man said Cheung had made a responsible decision in stepping down while Secretary for Transport and Housing Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said the move would have little effect on the government.
Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po said he was not aware of Cheung's financial difficulties with HKMEx at the time he was reappointed to lead the Urban Renewal Authority last month, but the resignation would not hurt the authority in the short term.
Meanwhile, Ben Kwong Man-bun, one of the 37 broker members of the HKMEx, said the exchange's business model would make it difficult for any would-be investor, or "white knight", to consider rebuilding the exchange.
"If you look at the exchange's record, not too many members were actively using the platform," he said. "[The exchange] needs a lot of capital and infrastructure."