Fugitive tycoon Zeng Wei to return to Hong Kong to face justice over bribery scandal

Zeng Wei, who fled three years ago while charged over bribery scandal, to be extradited from US

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 May, 2014, 5:41am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 May, 2014, 5:41am

Fugitive property tycoon Zeng Wei has agreed to return to the city and stand trial.

Zeng, 51, fled Hong Kong nearly three years ago while facing charges over a multibillion-dollar bribery scandal involving the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

He has been the subject of an extradition bid by the Hong Kong government since he was arrested on the western Pacific island of Saipan, a territory of the United States, in January.

Zeng is expected to be escorted back to the city by agents from the Independent Commission Against Corruption "in the next few weeks", a source told the Sunday Morning Post.

It will be the first high-profile extradition from the US since relations were threatened when Hong Kong blocked the surrender of national security whistle-blower Edward Snowden almost a year ago.

Zeng, a property developer and hotel and golf course mogul - often mistakenly believed to be the son of former vice-president Zeng Qinghong - fled Hong Kong in July 2011.

He failed to turn up at court to face charges over a bribes-for-loans scandal allegedly amounting to HK$2.7 billion. The case led to the jailing of two senior executives at ICBC's Hong Kong unit.

Zeng was detained in Saipan on January 16 after arriving from Shanghai and trying to enter on a visitor's visa. Border officials allege he made false statements when questioned.

"He has waived any opposition to Hong Kong's formal request to the US for his surrender and it looks like it's just the sorting out of the practical issues of flying him back to the city that remain," said a source with knowledge of the case.

Zeng has hired the services of one of Hong Kong's top barristers, Cheng Huan, who has been involved in several high-profile cases, some involving the issue of the legality of covert surveillance by the ICAC. Calls to Cheng's chambers went unanswered.

A spokesman for the ICAC said: "In view of the ongoing legal proceedings arising from a formal request made by the HKSAR to the United States for the surrender of Zeng Wei, the ICAC will not comment further."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: "The HKSAR has made a request to the United States for the surrender of Zeng Wei and the request is being processed in accordance with the Agreement between the Government of Hong Kong and the Government of the United States of America for the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders.

"At the moment, the Department of Justice is not in a position to comment further."