COURTS

Officials would have private sector connections, Hui trial told

Lawyer suggests officials would have had 'life outside government' and links to private sector

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 July, 2014, 4:02am

Principal officials appointed by the chief executive would be expected to have private sector connections, the corruption trial involving ex-chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan heard yesterday.

The suggestion was made by lawyers for Sun Hung Kai Properties co-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong to witness Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan, a former government official.

Hui is accused of receiving 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 had served as a consultant to SHKP until shortly before he became the government's No2 official in June 2005.

Clare Montgomery QC, for Thomas Kwok, cited the example of Frederick Ma Si-hang, who was a senior banker for Chase Manhattan and chief financial officer for PCCW before he was appointed as the secretary for financial services and the treasury.

Montgomery said officials appointed under the "accountability system" - the system under which the chief executive can appoint his choice of principal officials - would have had "a life outside the government" before they took office. "That type of principal official, coming from the private sector, would have connections with the private sector," Montgomery said.

Lau, a former permanent secretary for housing, planning and lands, replied that it "depends on what connection we are talking about".

She agreed Ma had connections with the private sector but said he would have to make a declaration of interests and adhere to a code of ethics.

The court also heard yesterday that any developer bidding for the West Kowloon arts hub project would have lost billions of dollars had it adhered to three government requirements introduced during the bidding process. The new requirements included a limit to the density of the site, a HK$30 billion payment to set up a trust fund and putting 50 per cent of residential and commercial development aside for open bidding.

A joint venture involving SHKP was one of the three bids shortlisted by the government for public consultation between 2004 and 2005. The court heard that none of the bidders responded to the new requirements and the arts hub project had to be relaunched by the government.

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, co-chairman 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 plead not guilty.

The trial resumes on Monday.