Rafael Hui, Kwok brothers graft trial set to open after second jury empanelled
Prosecution case set to open today after judge Andrew Macrae laughs off more excuses from potential jurors who do not want to serve
Prosecutors in the corruption trial involving a former No 2 official in the Hong Kong government and two of the city's wealthiest tycoons are expected to open their case today after a second jury was empanelled yesterday.
Selection of the three men and six women to try former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan and four others took six hours - double the time spent in choosing the first jury that was discharged last week.
Once again, Mr Justice Andrew Macrae sprinkled the process with humour as he listened to various excuses from potential jurors who wanted to avoid serving.
In an apparent move to make sure that the trial could get started today, Macrae asked unselected potential jurors to return this morning.
He appeared to be bracing for a repetition of last week's events when a juror was excused for health and work reasons after being sworn in, leading to the discharge of the entire jury.
Hui, 66, faces eight charges related to bribery and misconduct in public office.
Sun Hung Kai Properties co-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 62, 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 with Hui of furnishing false information.
SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and former Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang each face two charges. All have pleaded not guilty.
Reassurances by the judge that taking part in a trial that could last four months was not as intimidating as people thought did not dissuade jury pool members from offering an array of excuses for exemption.
Turning down a woman's plea for release because of her four medical appointments, Macrae said he had in the past rung up a hospital to ask a doctor to see a patient immediately. "I am not without influence," he jested.
The woman's next excuse, that she had high blood pressure, met the response: "I am getting that." She was not exempted by the judge but was released after a lawyer's challenge.
"Thank you!" the woman said.
"You'll have to wait for the appointments; you have to wait for the whole day without the help of a judge," Macrae joked.
A woman who said she was getting married next month also failed to win exemption, as the judge indicated she could be released for the big day.
"I'm not so hard-hearted as to stop somebody from getting married. We can accommodate that," Macrae said.
She was challenged by lawyers and released.
However, Macrae did not show sympathy for several employees of government and statutory bodies and institutions, who cited work-related reasons as grounds for exemption.