Tycoon Joseph Lau wants to be tried in absentia in Macau corruption case
For the fourth time, Joseph Lau fails to front up for his graft trial in Macau
Phila Siu in Macau and Ng Kang-chung
He had already missed three court appearances and tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung made it four yesterday, preferring lunch at his favourite restaurant in Wan Chai to Macau's Court of First Instance.
Despite his absence, a judge decided to press ahead with a corruption trial.
Lau's lawyer, Leong Weng-pun, said that Lau wanted to be tried in absentia, without explaining why. Lau had claimed illness on three previous court dates, forcing the judge to postpone the trial.
Presiding judge Mario Augusto Silvestre accepted the lawyer's application as he said he could not be sure Lau was absent for "unreasonable reasons".
Meanwhile, Lau appeared to be living life the way he always does, enjoying a meal at the Fook Lam Moon restaurant with girlfriend Chan Hoi-wan and daughter Josephine. However, another girlfriend, Yvonne Lui Lai-kwan, was present in court, apparently as an observer.
Lau, chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, and Steven Lo Kit-sing, chairman of BMA Investment and convenor of the South China soccer team, are accused of offering a HK$20 million bribe to Macau's former public works chief, Ao Man-long, in 2005. They are accused of bribing Ao to secure land near the airport for the La Scala luxury residential project.
Both Lau and Lo face a charge of bribery and a charge of money laundering. Ao was jailed for 29 years in May last year.
Leong yesterday challenged the validity of a notebook seized at Ao's home, which the prosecutor said contained details of how the scandal evolved. "The handwriting, colour and even size of the words are different [on different pages]. Are the words written by the same person?" Leong asked, adding that his application to the court to authenticate the notebook was rejected.
Lo did appear at the trial but said he would let his lawyers speak on his behalf after answering questions from the judge, including about his monthly income, which he put at from HK$10 million to HK$20 million.
Lo's lawyer, Jorge Neto Valente, said Lo was not given any information that the land near the airport would be tendered until it officially happened.
The trial will continue on Monday, and the judge wants to summon 10 witnesses to testify.