Evidence raid was illegal, Macau trial told

Anti-corruption officers went into Macau official's house without informing him, counsel tells judge in Hong Kong tycoons' graft case

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 September, 2013, 5:15am

Macau's Court of First Instance should not consider as evidence the notebooks seized by Macau anti-corruption officers at the home of disgraced public works chief Ao Man-long, the court was told yesterday.

This was because the graft-busters might have entered the house illegally, the court heard.

The court yesterday resumed hearing the corruption case involving Hong Kong tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung, chairman of developer Chinese Estates, and Steven Lo Kit-sing, chairman of BMA Investment. They are accused of offering Ao a HK$20 million bribe in 2005 to help them secure the land near the airport for the La Scala luxury residential development.

There are six other defendants in the trial, including Macau businessman Pedro Chiang, who is also known as Lam Wai. They are facing corruption charges relating to several sewage treatment plants in Macau.

Chiang's lawyer, Joao Miguel Barros, said although the Commission Against Corruption had obtained a warrant to search Ao's government-provided residence in December 2006, there was no evidence to show the graft-busters informed Ao before they entered the house.

"Why did [the graft-busters] enter Ao Man-long's house without informing him first? This is needed according to law," Barros asked witness and commission investigator Lee Tung-leung yesterday.

Barros also said the commission should have been able to tell Ao about the search beforehand because Ao was being detained at its headquarters at the time.

Even if it could not find Ao, the graft-buster should at least have let Ao's lawyer know about the search. The notebooks seized at Ao's house - key evidence in the trial - should not be considered as evidence because the graft-buster illegally entered Ao's house, he said.

The notebooks contain words and numbers allegedly related to the La Scala development and the sewage treatment plants. They included Lau's name, "airport land" and "2,000" .

Lee said he could not remember if Ao had been told about the search before officers entered the house on December 7, 2006.

"When the officers came to Ao Man-long's house, we did not know nobody was inside," Lee said. "The officers rang the doorbell and no one answered. There were policemen guarding the house and so the officers gave the police the search warrant. Our officers even asked the police to enter the house with us, but they refused."

Lee told the court the officers entered the house with a key obtained from the chief executive's office because Ao's residence was provided by the government.

Meanwhile, Lau's lawyer Leong Weng-pun yesterday asked whether the court should consider as evidence the documents obtained by Macau's anti-graft agency from Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Leong said that according to the mutual legal assistance scheme between Hong Kong and Macau, the ICAC should first submit documents to Macau's Court of Final Appeal, and let the court transfer the documents to Macau's anti-corruption agency.

Leong told the court that the documents were sent directly to the Macau agency by the ICAC.

The trial continues tomorrow.