Michael Suen tells court he isn't good friends with SHKP's Thomas Chan
Ex-education chief admits to only some dealings and group dinners with accused Thomas Chan
Retired government minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung has denied being a good friend of a Sun Hung Kai Properties executive who is a co-defendant in the corruption trial of former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan.
Testifying in the High Court yesterday, Suen, a former secretary for education, also denied he had up to 15 meals with SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen.
Suen is a prosecution witness in the trial of Hui, who is accused of having taken tens of millions of dollars from SHKP co-chairmen Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen to be the property giant's "eyes and ears" in the government.
Hui was an SHKP consultant before he became the city's chief secretary and the chairman of the West Kowloon Cultural District steering committee in 2005. A joint venture of SHKP submitted proposals for the arts hub project.
Suen, then vice-chairman of the committee, yesterday agreed under cross-examination there was nothing wrong with government officials socialising with people in the private sector if they followed the Civil Service Code.
Defence counsel Ian Winter QC suggested Suen was quite good friends with his client, Chan. Suen said: "I cannot say we are quite good friends. I would say I know him and we have some dealings."
Winter suggested Suen had been out for dinner with Chan along with other people.
"There is nothing wrong with that at all," the lawyer said. Suen replied: "Of course there's nothing wrong with that. But it did not happen on a large number of occasions." He disagreed with Winter's suggestion that he had eaten with Chan 15 times.
Winter cited a dinner Suen hosted to treat Chan and a number of others at the Jockey Club in December 2005. "That's correct, but at that time I didn't invite him only," Suen said. "I invited a number of people with whom I had work relationships."
He agreed that there was no question of deals being done on the side or confidential information being disclosed at such a social event.
Suen also confirmed that, when he was committee vice-chairman, he knew Hui had been a consultant to the "senior management of SHK" before.
He agreed that no conflict of interest would have arisen if Hui had not served as a consultant for the SHKP joint venture that had bid for the arts hub project.
Outside court, Suen remarked he was "stirred by the vicissitudes of life". "I hope the truth will be revealed," he told reporters.
Also yesterday, Iris Chiu Ching-shi, former managing director of an SHKP subsidiary, said former SHKP chairman Walter Kwok Ping-sheung - who is not a defendant - instructed her to prepare new tenancy agreements for two luxury flats that Hui had been living in days before Hui's appointment as chief secretary on June 30, 2005.
Chiu said he told her to raise the monthly rent per flat from HK$55,000 to HK$80,000 after he learned of the market rate.
The new agreements were signed on June 24 that year, effective on July 1, 2005, for 30 months.
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. Chan, 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.