‘Developer meetings were not unusual’, Kwok-Hui graft trial hears

Graft trial hears that former chief secretary Rafael Hui met Thomas Kwok over Ma Wan project, but such meetings were normal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 July, 2014, 11:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 July, 2014, 8:15am

Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan did meet with a Sun Hung Kai Properties co-chairman over a project on Ma Wan, but there was nothing unusual about the city's second-highest government officer meeting property developers, a high-level corruption trial heard yesterday.

Hui's former administrative assistant Adeline Wong Ching-man was responding to a prosecution question about Hui's meeting with Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong on June 5, 2006.

Hui is alleged to have received tens of millions of dollars from SHKP's co-chairmen to be the developer's "eyes and ears" in the government over the West Kowloon arts hub and Ma Wan projects.

Hui, 66, faces eight charges 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. His brother and co-chairman Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 61, 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.

Wong said that at the 2006 meeting, SHKP representatives asked if more coaches could be allowed access to Ma Wan Park via the Tsing Ma Bridge.

"Was it usual or unusual for the chief secretary to have meetings with representatives of developers?" lead prosecutor David Perry QC asked.

"Normal," Wong said.

She said the two sides would meet if the developers had something to tell the government or when the government wanted to explain policies to developers.

Earlier yesterday, lawyers for Thomas Kwok suggested that Hui had decided to impose three extra conditions on the West Kowloon Cultural District project to cause the tender process and developers' bids to fail.

Clare Montgomery QC said Hui designed this so the government could start the project again under a new framework. The court had heard there were serious public concerns at the time that the government was transferring benefits to developers.

The conditions were imposed in October 2005 by the arts hub steering committee, which Hui chaired after he became chief secretary in late June that year.

The committee required the winning bidder to pay HK$30 billion upfront to set up a trust fund to support arts development.

It also set an absolute plot ratio of 1.81 and capped housing at not more than 20 per cent of the area of the arts hub.

Thirdly, half of the residential and commercial developments had to be excluded from the area to be developed by the successful bidder, and that company could not develop the excluded area.

But if the winning developer accepted the new conditions, it would make a significant loss, Montgomery said, citing a government projection.

She asked Arsene Yiu Kai-cheuk, who prepared documents for the committee: "Is it clear from [Hui's] decision and thinking during that time that his purpose was to cause the [invitation for proposals] process and the bids by the developers to fail?"

Yiu said the introduction of the new conditions was a collective government decision.

The trial continues.