'HK$3 million payment to Rafael Hui kept secret from brother from Walter Kwok’

Thomas Kwok's secretary says family dispute was behind use of cheque with no recipient

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 August, 2014, 11:18pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 August, 2014, 7:27am

Tense relations with his elder brother led Sun Hung Kai Properties co-chairman Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong to keep a HK$3 million payment to Rafael Hui Si-yan in October 2003 secret, their corruption trial heard yesterday.

Leung May-foon, Thomas Kwok's secretary since 1992, told the High Court that Kwok opted to make the payment by means of a cheque to cash, which did not bear the receiver's name, to hide it from his elder brother, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung.

He had wanted to avoid confrontation, Leung said, as the brothers had different views over whether to hire Hui as a consultant, as SHKP did in March 2004. Hui would later go on to serve as chief secretary.

"The two Kwoks have different opinions from time to time," Leung told the court.

Hui allegedly took tens of millions of dollars from Thomas Kwok and his other brother and co-chairman, Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, to be SHKP's "eyes and ears" in government. Walter Kwok does not face any charges.

The corruption allegation includes a HK$5 million cheque, made out to cash, that was issued by Thomas Kwok in April 2005 and deposited in Hui's account.

Questioned by Thomas Kwok's counsel, Clare Montgomery QC, Leung said the three brothers would sometimes gather in a meeting room on the floor where they all had offices.

"Sometimes, we heard someone shouting very loudly inside but we could not clearly hear what they said," Leung recalled. "When they left the meeting room, all three looked unhappy, with straight faces."

Montgomery put it to Leung that Thomas Kwok had in fact paid Hui with a cheque to cash more than once, including the 2003 payment.

Leung agreed with Montgomery's assertion that writing a cheque without a named recipient could escape SHKP's internal auditor and therefore not come to the attention of Walter Kwok. Thomas Kwok did "not often" issue such cheques, Leung told the court.

Montgomery also asked whether relations between the three ever became so tense that their mother, Kwong Siu-hing, had to intervene.

"When they had disagreements on business matters, they would put the case to the mother to make the final decision. This is natural because she is the head of the family," Leung said.

The court had earlier heard from other witnesses that Walter Kwok became "suspicious" and made "false accusations" against relatives and company executives after being freed by kidnappers in 1997, including an accusation against Thomas Kwok's wife, who also worked at SHKP.

Montgomery asked Leung if her boss's workload increased after Walter Kwok's kidnap ordeal, when the latter seldom went to the office. Leung said she did not know as she considered her boss always to be busy.

Judge Mr Justice Andrew Macrae then asked Leung whether her boss had gone from being "very busy" to "very, very busy" at that time.

Leung said she did not know her boss's workload so could not answer.

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 to all charges.

The trial continues.