Tycoon drawn into blackmail hearing
Businessman accused of trying to use Henderson Land chief as bait to lure investors by offering him a free loan to buy shares
The names of Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee and prominent businessman Lew Mon-hung were yesterday drawn into a High Court trial over an alleged blackmail plot.
A lawyer for one of five defendants in the case said Hui Chi-ming, who the court has heard was forced to hand over millions of shares as part of the plot, had dishonestly used Lee's name to persuade others to buy shares in his company.
Hui was formerly chairman of Hong Kong-listed Sino Union Petroleum and Chemical International (Sunpec). He was said to have put a proposal to Lee - which he did not accept - in which the tycoon could buy 200 million Sunpec shares "without paying a cent", and standing only to gain with no risk of any loss.
These suggestions were made by lawyers for defendant Koon Wing-yee, 56, former chairman of listed Easyknit Group, who is charged with others of extorting 300 million Sunpec shares from Hui. Koon, Wong Chin-yik, 61, Shum Man-keung, 59, Ng Chi-keung, 71, and Chan Kwai-nam, 62, are jointly charged with two counts of conspiracy to blackmail and one of theft. Wong also faces a charge of blackmail and one of possessing arms at the time of committing blackmail.
Gary Plowman SC, for Koon, suggested that Hui had offered the Henderson chairman an interest-free loan to buy 200 million Sunpec shares at HK$1.25 per share. The shares were to be held by Hui as security.
Under the proposal, Plowman said, if the price rose then Lee would sell the shares within five years and take the profits. If it fell, Lee would resell the shares to Hui without incurring any loss.
"That's what you proposed, but of course Dr Lee would not agree," Plowman said.
Hui said there was no such proposal. He called the allegations "a pack of lies" and a malicious attack, and said the claims were not supported by any evidence. He said Lee was interested in buying his company's shares and had drafted the terms and conditions of the purchase agreement. The acquisition of the shares was announced through the Stock Exchange, he said.
Plowman went on to suggest that Hui had used Lee's name to persuade others, including Koon, into buying "large blocks" of Sunpec shares.
The lawyer also suggested that in persuading Koon to buy 200 million Sunpec shares, Hui offered an additional 250 million shares as an incentive.
Plowman said Hui had transferred only 50 million of the 250 million additional shares, and the shares allegedly extorted from him were in fact the balance owed to Koon. Hui disagreed.
The court also heard that Lew Mon-hung acted as a middleman in assisting businessman Hui Wing-mau to buy HK$172 million worth of Sunpec shares from Hui Chi-ming.
The court heard that Hui Chi-ming said in a police statement that he had had no previous dealings with Koon before the alleged blackmail incident in 2009.
However, Plowman said that Hui had acted as guarantor for four loan agreements totalling HK$43 million that were taken out by Hui's staff with money-lending companies owned by Koon.
Koon's lawyers also said Hui had given Koon five tickets for events at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The trial continues.