Magistrate puts HKMEx's Cheung in frame in fake funds case
Court asks police to investigate why boss of failed HKMEx kept a copy of gold dealer's document falsely claiming access to US$516m
If facts presented to the court were correct, former executive councillor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen was "no doubt" a suspect in a case involving a US$516 million false bank document, a magistrate said yesterday, before urging police to investigate.
Li Kwok-wai's remarks came after hearing that Cheung had requested a copy of the document from Malaysian businessman Ong Shen Kuo and had kept it in his office - even though it had nothing to do with his business, the now-failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx).
Ong was jailed for six months in Eastern Court yesterday after pleading guilty to possessing a false "proof of funds" document purporting to confirm that US$516 million had been deposited in his HSBC account in December last year.
The court heard that the document, which Cheung had requested from Ong in December, was seized from the former executive councillor's office in May.
Li said it was strange that Cheung was interested enough in the document to keep it in his office. "If what Ong said was true, Barry Cheung is no doubt one of the suspects in the case," the magistrate said.
He said the court would not speculate on the issue, but urged police to make further inquiries.
Prosecutor Ira Lui Tsz-ming said Cheung and Ong became acquainted in mid-2012 when Cheung was the chairman of HKMEx. He asked Ong to lend money to another of his companies, New Effort Holdings.
Ong, a "nominated buyer" of gold in Thailand, agreed to lend US$25 million to US$30 million if he pulled off a deal to export 10 tonnes of gold from Thailand to Hong Kong.
To facilitate the export, Ong allegedly acquired the proof of funds through his business partners Guo Guoguang and Hui Weifung. Ong claimed the partners gave him the document which showed US$516 million had been deposited into an HSBC account. He did not complete the gold deal and did not lend money to Cheung.
He said when Cheung asked to see the document, he initially told him that it had nothing to do with him. He later showed it to Cheung in a restaurant.
Cheung then asked for a copy as he wanted to know the contents, the court heard. Ong sent a copy to Cheung's e-mail on December 27 last year.
Barrister James Chandler, representing Ong, said the businessman, who lived on the mainland, did not obtain any advantage from its use.
When Cheung asked Ong for the copy, Ong made it clear that the document had not been verified and could not be used. Ong had no idea what Cheung intended to do with it.
Cheung declined to comment on the magistrate's call for an investigation.
Cheung is already facing a number of civil claims filed at the High Court over alleged unpaid loans. HKMEx itself is subject to a police investigation and is also being sued over HK$7 million in alleged unpaid rent and service payments.