'No proof' corrupt official Ao influenced land deal, court hears
Lawyer for businessman Steven Lo says Macau investigator cannot prove corrupt public works chief influenced a lucrative property deal
The lawyer for Hong Kong businessman Steven Lo Kit-sing yesterday hit out at a key witness from Macau's anti-graft agency for failing to back his arguments with evidence as the corruption trial of Lo and fellow tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung continued.
Lo, chairman of BMA Investment, and Lau, chairman of Chinese Estates, are accused of offering Macau's disgraced public works chief Ao Man-long a HK$20 million bribe to secure land close to Macau's airport for their La Scala luxury housing development in 2005.
Ao is serving 29 years in prison for graft. Lo and Lau each face one charge of bribery and one of money laundering.
On his fifth day in the witness stand in Macau's Court of First Instance, senior investigator Io Fu-chun of the Commission Against Corruption was asked by Lo's counsel, Jorge Neto Valente, if he could offer any evidence that Ao had influenced the decision of the task force set up to assess proposals for the La Scala site.
After Io said his agency had evidence that Ao "could" influence the committee's decision, Valente hit back: "I have been a lawyer for so many years, and this kind of behaviour should be condemned. He has been giving arbitrary answers. And it is very shocking that the court has been allowing him to do so.
"It is not about whether his answers are good or bad for the defendant," said Valente, a lawyer for 40 years. "His answers are no good for justice."
Deputy Prosecutor-General Paulo Chan told the court he accepted that parts of Io's testimony were not acceptable because they consisted of his own analyses. But he said lawyers could not expect a witness to say only what they wanted him to. If lawyers thought Io's testimony was not meaningful, they should stop asking questions, Chan said.
Presiding judge Mario Augusto Silvestre said Io could simply tell the court he did not have the information a lawyer was asking for. "To be frank, you have not been answering the questions directly," he said.
The anti-graft agency has been attempting to establish a connection between Lo and Ao, offering evidence that the duo came into contact through Macau businessman Ho Meng-fai. Valente described the evidence of a connection as "indirect".
Investigators have presented phone records showing that Ao would call Ho, who would then immediately call Lo. But they offered no record of Ao calling Lo directly, nor any record of any conversations involving the three.
Valente yesterday challenged the evidence, saying there was nothing to show that the number presented as Ho's actually belonged to him as it was not registered under his name.
But Io offered evidence yesterday that he said showed Ao, Lo and Lau had dinner together in Macau on October 27, 2005, soon after Lo's company Moon Ocean won the right to develop the site.
Immigration records presented in court showed that Lo and Lau entered Macau through the same immigration desk at the border.
Lo was in court yesterday. Lau continued his absence from the court, although his girlfriend, Yvonne Lui Lai-kwan, was present as an observer.
The trial continues tomorrow.