Hong Kong women set to face Italian court in Berlusconi case

Pair alleged to have been part of tax and fraud scam linked to claims involving Donald Tsang

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 September, 2013, 3:30am

Two Hong Kong women are set to face allegations of money laundering in an Italian court next week in a high-profile case linked to disgraced Italian ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The case is also at the centre of allegations that former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was asked to delay the transfer of crucial evidence seized in Hong Kong to public prosecutors in Milan.

In January 2007, detectives from the narcotics bureau raided the homes of Paddy Chan Mei-yiu, Katherine Hsu May-chun and the premises of four companies: Wiltshire Trading, Harmony Gold, CS Secretaries and Loong Po Management.

Police seized 61 documents which were put under lock and key at police headquarters in Wan Chai, where they sat until last month, when they were finally sent to Italy on urgent orders from Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung.

The transfer was delayed for almost seven years because of court action by the two women, who claimed the documents were seized improperly.

The documents will be submitted to the Court of Milan next Tuesday, according to a statement by Milan prosecutors.

The prosecutors intend to prove that 11 people, including the two women and Berlusconi's son Piersilvio, were involved in a massive fraud scheme, with evidence showing tax evasion amounting to €8 million (HK$83.9 million) and €35 million in embezzlement.

The claims against Tsang's administration come from Sergio De Gregorio, a former Italian senator who is now under investigation for accepting €3million in bribes from Berlusconi.

De Gregorio claims that, under instruction from Berlusconi, several Hong Kong government officials were asked to try to stop the transfer of evidence.

De Gregorio's allegations, detailed in interrogation transcripts seen by the South China Morning Post, date back to April 2007 when he claims that, during a visit to Hong Kong, the then-Italian consul-general in the city, Alessandro De Pedys, tipped him off about the seized documents.

De Pedys, who now works for the Italian Foreign Ministry in Rome, confirmed that he met De Gregorio in Hong Kong in both April and September 2007, but only in an official capacity.

De Pedys said he "did not pass any confidential note to De Gregorio" about the case.

When De Gregorio told Berlusconi - head of the Italian opposition at the time - about the seized documents, the billionaire media tycoon ordered De Gregorio to handle the matter.

De Gregorio bragged about knowing the then-Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung and Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah and said he could put pressure on them.

Lam confirmed that he met an Italian senator on a "purely social courtesy occasion" and never talked about the case. John Tsang did not respond to questions by deadline last night.

De Gregorio also claimed that in 2007 he met the Chinese ambassador to Italy, Dong Jinyi, to discuss the matter.

According to De Gregorio, Dong "jumped from his seat" and "he told me it was not possible that this could have happened" and "asked me to convey his apologies" to Berlusconi.

Later, Berlusconi allegedly invited the Chinese ambassador to a dinner at his Palazzo Grazioli.