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Macau

Former Macau top prosecutor snared in corruption probe to face 1,970 criminal charges

Ho Chio-meng was arrested in February as he tried to board ferry to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 November, 2016, 2:55pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 November, 2016, 3:21am

Macau’s former top prosecutor – who was once hotly tipped to become the city’s chief executive – will face almost 2,000 criminal charges when he appears in court next month, it has been revealed.

The extent of the allegations against Ho Chio-meng – who was arrested by anti-corruption agents in February as he tried to board a ferry to Hong Kong – was released by Macau’s Court of Final Appeal.

Ho was prosecutor general – a position equivalent to that of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Hong Kong – from the 1999 handover of the former Portuguese enclave until 2014.

In a case that has rocked the city’s legal establishment, he is accused of an array of crimes along with former colleagues and members of his family.

Ho and others will face trial on December 5.

The litany of his alleged crimes is detailed on a 1,970-item charge sheet, including initiating or founding a criminal syndicate, fraud, money laundering, unlawful economic advantage, abuse of power and document forgery. Ho even faces one charge of “damaging goods under his domain”.

A month after his arrest and detention, a habeas corpus bid by Ho – a request to bring one before a court to challenge reasons for confinement – was rejected by the courts in Macau on the grounds that there was a significant risk the former prosecutions chief might flee the city.

The wide ranging and extensive probe into alleged corruption and kickbacks involving at least HK$44 million has snared more than 70 suspects to date.

Ho is being held in the same prison annexe as disgraced former public works secretary Ao Man-long, who is serving a 27-year term and is the highest-ranking public official ever convicted of corruption in the city. If convicted, Ho would be the second.

The annexe was specially built in the late 1990s to hold 14K triad society kingpin “Broken Tooth” Wan Kuok-koi, one of Macau’s most notorious criminals, who has now been released.

Ho stopped exercising his role as a magistrate in February 2015 and was working as the head of the government’s Committee on Criminal and Legal Studies.

He was replaced as top prosecutor at the end of 2014, when Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai-on announced an all-new team of top officials – a reaction to Beijing’s corruption crackdown.

News of the charges against Ho came amid protracted negotiations between Hong Kong and Macau over a treaty that would allow fugitives to be transferred between the two special administrative regions.