I was framed, says businessman cleared of blackmailing ex-Sunpec chief

Businessman claims he was set up by former government officials, after court finds him not guilty of extorting shares from ex-Sunpec chief

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 5:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 5:00am

A businessman accused of teaming up with a follower of notorious gangster "Big Spender" Cheung Tze-keung to blackmail a chairman of a listed company and threatening to feed him to sharks walked free yesterday.

Outside court, an emotional Koon Wing-yee, 57, claimed he was set up in a plot that involved unidentified former high-ranking government officials.

"I was framed," Koon said. "You can't imagine which former government officials were involved. They must now fear that I will tell the truth."

Koon added that he would say more at a press conference later.

After a 31-day trial, he and four co-defendants were found not guilty of blackmailing Hui Chi-ming, former chairman of Sino Union Petroleum and Chemical International (Sunpec), out of millions of shares in 2009.

Koon, Ng Chi-keung, 71, Wong Chin-yik, 61, Chan Kwai-nam, 62, and Shum Man-keung, 59, were together charged with two counts of conspiracy to blackmail and one of theft.

Wong, who was described by Hui in court as a gang leader and "follower" of Cheung - a kidnapper, robber and arms smuggler executed on the mainland in 1998 - was also charged with blackmail and with possessing arms while committing blackmail.

A seven-member jury unanimously found the five not guilty of all charges after more than a day of deliberation. It found the prosecution had not proved beyond reasonable doubt that the five forced Hui to hand over 100 million Sunpec shares in March 2009 nor that Wong flashed a pistol-like object to demand another 300 million shares.

During the dramatic trial, Hui said Koon blamed him for huge losses he claimed to have suffered from buying Sunpec shares. He said Koon threatened to harm him and his family unless he handed over the shares, and that gangsters recruited by Koon mobbed him in his office.

Koon told the court that far from blackmailing Hui, he had agreed to buy Sunpec shares after Hui promised him an extra 250 million shares if he bought HK$200 million worth of them.

Koon said Hui went back on his word and gave him only 50 million shares. Later, Koon testified, Hui called in a gangster known as "Shanghai Boy" in an effort to overturn the agreement.

Koon's lawyers suggested Hui had dishonestly used Henderson Land Development chairman Lee Shau-kee's name to lure others to buy shares in his company.

The court also heard that prominent businessman Lew Mon-hung acted as a middleman in assisting another businessman, Hui Wing-mau, to buy HK$172 million worth of Sunpec shares from Hui Chi-ming.

"This is not a simple case," Koon said, emerging from the court yesterday. "I have a lot more to tell. But this is not a good time to talk."

He said he was very happy because he knew if he had not been in Hong Kong, he would have been in "huge trouble".

"I thank the jury for bringing me justice," he said, "I'm wrong because I come from the grassroots and I do not know any high-ranking officials."

Koon said he would discuss legal action with his lawyers.