POLITICS

Mak Chai-kwong

The fall of the minister who lasted just 12 days

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 August, 2013, 3:56am

Mak Chai-kwong has been sarcastically dubbed "the minister with the shortest lifespan" after his hasty resignation over a housing scandal just 12 days into his appointment last year.

The departure of the former development chief came after Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily reported that he had abused a civil service housing allowance scheme in the 1980s by "cross-leasing" properties with a colleague, who was later named as former assistant highways director Tsang King-man.

The scandal, uncovered just days after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying took the helm, was widely seen as a blow to the new leader's administration.

Following the media exposé, Mak said: "I gave [the civil service bureau] all the facts … I have followed regulations and I don't think the matter involves my personal integrity." But on July 12 last year, less than two weeks after he took office, he resigned and was arrested over the scandal.

In June this year, district judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng's ruling cleared doubts about the legitimacy of cross-leasing after he accepted former civil service chief Joseph Wong Wing-ping's testimony that the practice was not seen as illegal.

But graft-busters found that Mak and Tsang had agreed to buy the flats in which they lived and to register them not in their own names, but in each other's. The duo then pretended to rent each other's flats, and when they applied for housing subsidy, they sought to conceal it by claiming they were renting to each other in their wives' names.

Mak and Tsang made the arrangement so that anyone who checked their housing allowance applications would not discover the bogus cross-leasing deal. They also pocketed the proceeds when they later sold the flats.

The prosecution said the evidence presented "an irresistible inference" that the pair had conspired to cheat in their applications for housing subsidy.

In April, Mak began a part-time lecturing stint at the University of Hong Kong, co-teaching the Analysis, Modelling and Project Appraisal in Transportation course, which is part of the Master of Arts in Transport Policy and Planning degree.