SHKP threatened to pull out of Ma Wan project, Rafael Hui graft trial hears

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 11:33pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 8:50am

Sun Hung Kai Properties threatened to pull out of its Ma Wan Park project as it pressed the government to relax a stipulation that most journeys to the development would be by ferry, the High Court heard yesterday.

"We considered that to be a bluff," said Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, a former government official who was giving evidence in the high-profile corruption trial of former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan and the co-chairmen of SHKP.

Hui is accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars from SHKP co-chairmen Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen to be the developer's "eyes and ears" in the government over the West Kowloon arts hub and Ma Wan projects.

Referring to the minutes of a meeting, lead prosecutor David Perry QC said SHKP told the government it would consider pulling out of the Ma Wan venture as it asked for the relaxation of a condition that 75 per cent of journeys to the island must be made by ferry.

The meeting on August 16, 2005 was attended by Thomas Kwok and co-defendant Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, as well as Lau.

Lau, who was permanent secretary for housing, planning and lands at the time, said SHKP also wanted 40 coach parking spaces.

She said the government did not consider that parking spaces were so essential that the development could not happen without them.

"It was made as a threat," she said of SHKP's suggestion that it could drop the development.

Earlier yesterday, Lau faced questions about Hui's time as chairman of the steering committee for the West Kowloon arts hub.

"Did Mr Hui, during his tenure as chairman of the steering committee, declare any conflict of interest?" Perry asked.

"I am not personally aware of any [declaration]. Should there be any [conflict of interest], the chief secretary had the duty to declare it with the clerk to the [Executive] Council," Lau said.

The court heard that only Hui and Michael Suen Ming-yeung, then secretary for housing, planning and lands, were given their own copies of a draft assessment report on proposals submitted by developers for the West Kowloon Cultural District project.

Other members of the steering committee would have to inspect the draft report at a designated assessment venue at Wan Chai Tower and could not take a copy outside, the court heard.

Lau said the special exception for Hui and Suen was done in accordance with a handbook drawn up with the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

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.

Raymond Kwok, 61, faces four charges, including one with Hui of furnishing false information.

SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, 67, and former Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang, 63, each face two charges. All have pleaded not guilty.

All have pleaded not guilty.