Macau's former public works chief Ao Man-long was sentenced to 29 years in jail for corruption and money laundering yesterday, six months more than the term he is currently serving for previous graft charges.
The bribe money involved in the latest trial, more than 31.9 million patacas, and shares Ao owned in his firm Ecoline, were confiscated.
The Macau Court of Final Appeal confirmed that Hong Kong tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing offered Ao HK$20 million over the bid for five plots of land opposite Macau airport, but it said the prosecution could not fully establish how a debit note asking for money was sent from Macau to the tycoons.
Lau and Lo were charged with bribery and money laundering.
They both denied the charges last week and will face a trial in Macau.
Judge Sam Hou-fai yesterday condemned Ao (pictured) for not showing remorse and making up 'ridiculous' excuses in his defence. 'The amount of bribe money he received is far more than the amount supported by evidence ... so large that no other officials involved in corruption in Asia and other countries can compare,' he said.
A luxury residential development, La Scala, is being built by Lau's Chinese Estates Holdings on the land involved in this case. Construction work was still being carried out yesterday. Several hundred of the project's flats have been sold in Hong Kong and Macau.
Asked if the land would be confiscated, Macau Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si-io said the judgment would be studied and followed up.
Lau said that in 2007 the government received a request asking that the five plots of land be combined into one and more land be given to the developer.
He said corruption rumours surfaced in 2009 and the government received an anonymous letter in July, saying the possible graft was related to the airport land, It was passed on to the graft-busters.
But Lau said the government could not reject the application based on the rumours and approved it in 2011.
Ao, 55, already serving 28 1/2 years for two previous graft cases, was sentenced to 49 years in total for six counts of bribery and three counts of money laundering charges. For awarding the land to Lau and Lo, Ao received seven years' jail, the highest term among all the charges.
Sam said Ao had seriously affected the government's image and was convicted of 90 charges in the three trials since 2007, with a total sentence of 417 years handed down. But because Macau law states that the maximum jail term is 30 years, Sam combined all the sentences to run concurrently, thus ordering Ao to be imprisoned for 29 years.
He was also fined 240,000 patacas and ordered to pay the legal expenses. An extra six months would be added if Ao did not pay the fine.
Sam dismissed Lo's testimony, saying it was not credible.
Lo earlier told the court that the HK$20 million was a preliminary payment for construction company San Meng Fai, but this suggestion was rebutted by another witness.
Sam also said that the Macau graft-busters had been very helpful in tracing how the bribe money flowed between Macau and Hong Kong, although the path had been a complicated one.
Lo could not be reached for comment. Chinese Estates did not reply to inquiries. Meanwhile, the Macau graft-busters' probe is still under way.