Mother concerned Walter Kwok faced outside influence, graft trial hears

Witness at corruption hearing points to former SHKP chairman’s relationship with woman

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 2014, 1:38pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 July, 2014, 8:23am

The mother of former Sun Hung Kai Properties chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung was concerned that he may have been influenced by "outsiders", the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.

Kwong Siu-hing detailed her concerns in a letter to directors of the company dated May 16, 2008.

The outsider was not identified in the letter, but in court a witness confirmed Kwong and others were concerned about Walter Kwok's relationship with Ida Tong [Kam-hing].

Kwong sent the letter soon after Walter Kwok took legal action against SHKP and its senior management, according to testimony at the corruption trial of Kwok's two brothers and former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan.

SHKP co-chairmen Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen are accused with two others of funnelling tens of millions of dollars to Hui to be the developer's "eyes and ears" in the government. Walter Kwok is not charged.

SHKP executive director Mike Wong Chik-wing was continuing his evidence after testifying on Friday that Walter Kwok became "suspicious" after he was kidnapped and released in 1997.

Barrister Clare Montgomery QC, for Thomas Kwok, said: "[Tong] had a relationship with Walter Kwok for some time."

"To my knowledge that lasted for several years," Wong said.

The court heard that on May 15, 2008, Walter Kwok brought legal proceedings against the company and the directors. He made accusations against his brothers, Thomas Kwok's wife - Ingrid Kwok - as well as Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and Mike Wong.

The court heard that morale among SHKP management was "seriously damaged" by events between February and May 2008.

Montgomery suggested that Walter Kwok used his authority to order internal auditors to go through records and investigate people he was suspicious of.

Montgomery said that Thomas Kwok "loved his brother", Walter, and was worried about him.

Wong agreed, adding that Thomas Kwok was a "peacemaker" among the brothers. And when problems arose on which the brothers held different views, their mother would act as a mediator and sometimes make a final decision.

Montgomery said up until the time when Walter Kwok launched his legal action, there was a "concerted effort" within SHKP, initiated by Thomas Kwok, to keep Walter Kwok's problem away from the public.

"Mr Thomas Kwok was very concerned about the relationship among the three brothers," Wong said.

Wong also said that at the end of 2007, SHKP was negotiating a lease with Credit Suisse over offices at the International Commerce Centre.

He said everyone on the board apart from Walter Kwok supported the deal. The lease was eventually approved by the board on January 17.

"His emotion on that day I would say was somehow quite extreme," Wong said of Walter Kwok.

A month later, the board discussed a motion to terminate Walter Kwok's appointment but he agreed to take temporary leave for personal reasons. And during his leave, he continued to go back to his office from time to time, "disrupting" meetings of executives, the court heard.

"Would you describe him as angry or calm," Montgomery asked, referring to those "disruptions".

"If I have to choose between the two certainly I will go for angry," Wong said.

On May 27, 2008, Walter Kwok was removed as chairman and replaced by his mother.

Hui, 66, faces eight counts related to bribery and misconduct in public office. Thomas Kwok, 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, 61, faces four charges, including one with Hui of furnishing false information. Thomas Chan and former Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang each face two charges.

All have pleaded not guilty. The trial continues.