Graft trial of Hui, Kwok brothers called off as one juror is 'unwell'

Trial adjourned until tomorrow morning after high anticipation over Hong Kong's most high-profile graft trial

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 May, 2014, 12:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 May, 2014, 3:23am

The long-awaited trial of the city's most high-profile corruption case has been adjourned until tomorrow morning after one of the jurors of the nine-member panel was absent for "not feeling well". 

The opening of the prosecution was due to begin at 2.30pm, with about 30 photographers and TV crew members eagerly awaiting the arrival of the defendants and the high-profile lawyers hired by both sides.

Hui arrived this morning dressed in a navy suit and carrying a drink ahead of the hearing, which is expected to last some four months.

The jury of four women and five men were empanelled yesterday and asked to keep a fresh, open mind. 

When sessions reopen, the jury will hear claims that Hui received HK$34 million in cash and other inducements from the heads of Sun Hung Kai Properties (SHKP) and others.

Mr Justice Andrew Macrae told the jury the High Court trial - which involves what he called "relatively straightforward" issues - may run until October.

Hui, 66, faces eight charges related to bribery and misconduct in public office.

Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 62, co-chairman of SHKP, faces one charge of conspiracy to offer an advantage to Hui and two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.

Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 61, also co-chairman, faces four charges, including one count of furnishing false information with Hui.

Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, executive director of SHKP, and former Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang each face two charges. All plead not guilty.

In the two-hour jury selection process, some among the 150-strong pool gave various reasons for why they were unsuitable to perform their public duty.

Several said they had planned trips to South Korea, with one woman going there to meet "a handsome man" who acted in the science fiction series My Love from the Star. Mr Justice Macrae joked: "It looks like the court will have to move to Korea."

And after one said he planned to go to Thailand, the judge replied: "There's a coup there."

Other excuses included having to plan a funeral, caring for a newborn, going on honeymoon and attending the soccer World Cup in Brazil. The judge warned them they had to declare if they or close relatives had personal links to the defendants or people and firms related to the hearing.

But those who had bought flats from SHKP would be eligible as long as they did not have legal disputes with the developer.

Mr Justice Macrae had told the pool that the court would excuse them only when there were "compelling reasons" to do so.

"Inconvenience is not a sufficient reason to be excused," he said. "Without people's cooperation, the jury system, which we are lucky and are proud to have, cannot work properly and smoothly."

He also warned the jurors not to conduct their own research, read related news or discuss the case with others on Facebook. He asked them to keep a "fresh, open mind" and to rely only on evidence they heard in the court.

He said: "It is not necessary that the jury is completely ignorant as to the identity of the persons they are about to try. Otherwise, the famous could never be tried."

He said the issues in the case were "relatively straightforward", though it did not mean evidence would not be complex.