Fraud trial

Names of Hong Kong firms linked to pair in Silvio Berlusconi trial unveiled

Names of companies run by two Hong Kong women connected to fraud trial involving shamed former Italian premier are revealed

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 2:58am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 September, 2013, 3:53am

New details have emerged of the network of companies controlled by two Hong Kong women at the centre of a multimillion-dollar money laundering trial linked to shamed Italian ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Paddy Chan Mei-yiu and Katherine Hsu May-chun, along with Berlusconi's son Pier Silvio, are among 11 defendants in the case.

An Italian former senator, Sergio De Gregorio, has alleged that the administration of then-chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, was asked in 2008 to delay the transfer to public prosecutors in Italy of crucial evidence seized in Hong Kong, in return for help in securing a private audience with the pope. An audience was arranged, but Tsang pulled out due to opposition from Beijing, De Gregorio said.

Apple Daily yesterday reported that Tsang did eventually get to meet the head of the Catholic Church in July this year. 

Tsang faces pressure from across the political spectrum to  explain his attempts to secure the private talks. 

Chan and Hsu spent almost seven years trying to stop the evidence seized in Hong Kong reaching Italian prosecutors but last month the appeals were exhausted and the documents  sent to Italy.

They will be submitted to the Italian court on Tuesday.

Yesterday, Chan did not answer the door at her North Point home and refused to answer questions when contacted by phone. Hsu was not at her Taikoo Shing apartment.

Chan and Hsu are both listed as directors of four companies linked to the Berlusconi case: Wiltshire Trading, Harmony Gold, CS Secretaries and Loong Po Management.

Company records also show that Hsu and Chan are co-directors of four other Hong Kong companies: New China Finance Leasing, Loyal Asia Investments, Inter-territorial and Manlite Services.

The pair also were co-directors of four companies that have been dissolved: Marble Grain, Hong Kong Golf Institute, Attwood and Technotime Asia.

Prosecutors allege four of Chan and Hsu's companies were part of a fraud connected to Egyptian-born TV producer Farouk Agrama and Berlusconi.

Agrama sold broadcasting rights for television series to shell companies, which resold the rights at inflated prices to Mediaset, Italy's largest broadcasting conglomerate, founded by Berlusconi.

By 2006, Italian investigators had traced transfers of about 150 million Swiss francs to accounts in Switzerland linked to Hsu and Chan, the prosecution alleges.

Duncan McDonnell, an expert in Italian politics at the European University Institute in Florence, said the case  was just the tip of the iceberg of Berlusconi's legal troubles.

"There is a sense that these things are stacking up and the roof is now caving in," he said yesterday.