Rafael Hui 'did not declare conflict of interest during talks on West Kowloon arts hub'

Ex-official led arts hub project without mentioning past work with one bidder, trial told - a job defence counsel says had been widely reported

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 July, 2014, 2:02pm
UPDATED : Friday, 25 July, 2014, 9:15am

Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan did not declare any conflict of interest when he took part in government discussions on the West Kowloon Cultural District project in 2005, a high-level corruption trial heard yesterday.

Retired minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung - the most senior former official to take the witness stand so far - also said it had been "very important" for officials in the project to make their interests known. If discussions between the public and private sectors were not transparent, it could add to Hongkongers' concerns about collusion, he said.

Hui began chairing the steering committee of the arts hub after he became chief secretary in late June 2005, the High Court heard.

Before that, he was a consultant to Sun Hung Kai Properties from March 2004 to March 2005. An SHKP joint venture was a bidder for the arts hub.

Hui is alleged to have taken tens of millions of dollars from SHKP co-chairmen Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen to be their "eyes and ears" in the government.

"Did Mr Hui make any declaration of any conflict of interest at any of the meetings of the steering committee which you attended?" lead prosecutor David Perry QC asked.

"No," said Suen, who in 2005 was the committee's vice-chairman as well as secretary for housing, planning and lands. He served in five ministerial posts between 1989 and 2012.

Suen also said he could not recall Hui having declared any interests at any Executive Council meeting he attended in which the arts hub was discussed.

He said he was aware Hui had worked for the SHK Group.

Defence counsel noted that "prominent businessmen" such as Kwok, Victor Li Tzar-kuoi of Cheung Kong, and Gordon Wu Ying-sheung of Hopewell had been appointed to a committee overseeing the airport.

"Why is it in the interest of the government to have businessmen in the committee?" Clare Montgomery QC, for Thomas Kwok, asked. "We know people in Hong Kong worry about collusion between the government and business."

Suen said that collecting different views would help the government deal with problems.

"I think there is no problem in having contact with them," he said. "People are afraid that … the contact is not an open and transparent one."

Montgomery also noted that Hui's consultancy work with SHKP prior to his appointment had been widely reported before.

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.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Andrew Macrae.