Vanished billionaire may shed light on basement

Defence lawyer claims old case has lessons relevant for hearing into Tang's illegal structure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 3:37am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 4:23am

A defence lawyer cited the sensational probate case of vanished billionaire Teddy Wang Teh-huei yesterday in urging a court to deal in a balanced way with evidence and expert opinion on when the illegal basement beneath Henry Tang Ying-yen's home was built.

Defence and prosecution lawyers in the case of two men and a company charged in connection with the basement have been arguing whether it was built before or after the home's occupation permit was granted.

Barrister Clive Grossman SC, representing Hien Lee Engineering Company, told Kowloon City Court that in the Wang hearing the timing of his signature on his last will had been the main issue.

From the ink on the signature, an expert said it might have been signed just three years before the will came to light in 1997, though the kidnapped tycoon had already been missing for seven years by that time.

"After considering all the evidence, the Court of Final Appeal still ruled the will was a valid one," Grossman said.

In evidence earlier, prosecution expert witness Professor Li Zongjin said the structure and skylight that covered the basement in the former chief secretary's home at 7 York Road, Kowloon Tong, was most probably built before January 2007 when the permit was issued.

The three defendants - also including architect Henry Ho Chung-yi and engineer Wong Pak-lam - deny having worked on or known about the basement before their work was completed.

They are each charged with one count of building without planning approval between 2005 and 2007 and one of knowingly misrepresenting information to the Building Authority.

The court has heard that the 2,400 sq ft basement was not in the initial building plans.

Media revelations of its existence in 2012 derailed Tang's run for chief executive.

Grossman said in his final submission yesterday that the basement work "simply could not have been done" before the occupation permit.

He said that, before the permit was issued, surveyors from the authority came randomly to check the progress and the safety of the site. It would have been impossible for the defendants to keep the work secret.

Acting Chief Magistrate Clement Lee Hing-nin adjourned the verdict to April 9.