Anti-corruption agents have sought fresh legal advice from the Department of Justice after extending the bail of billionaire property moguls the Kwok brothers and Hong Kong's former number two official, who are at the centre of the city's biggest-ever graft investigation.
Top government prosecutors are studying the investigation case file handed to them by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, in what informed sources are describing as 'an extremely complex case''.
The Department of Justice, which the South China Morning Post understands has been considering the details of the ICAC investigation on and off over a lengthy period, will decide whether or not the three men - who have not been charged - should be prosecuted.
Almost two weeks after their arrests on March 29, Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 60, and former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, 64, returned to the commission's North Point headquarters yesterday morning and were granted an extended period of bail.
It is understood that Thomas Kwok's brother Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 58, with whom he heads Sun Hung Kai Properties and who was also on bail following his arrest on March 29, reported back to the ICAC last Thursday. It is unclear why the younger Kwok, whose bail was also extended, did so separately.
A spokesman for the commission would only confirm that two people related to the March 29 arrests had their bail extended yesterday and another had reported back earlier. It is understood that the three have been told to report back to the anti-graft agency late next month.
The high-profile trio are being investigated over allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office, and are the most powerful figures to have been targeted by the ICAC in its 37-year history.
Their arrests came 10 days after that of Sun Hung Kai Properties executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, and followed that of four other, so far unidentified, individuals.
Chan and the other four have also been released on bail, and none has been charged.
In a rare move on the night of the arrests, Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung announced that he would delegate authority to the director of public prosecutions, Kevin Zervos, to decide whether a prosecution was warranted. Wong made the decision after satisfying himself that Zervos 'has no connection with the persons involved in the case', and 'to avoid any possible perception of bias or improper influence''.
Barrister Stephen Char Shik-ngor, a former ICAC investigator, said one of the reasons for extending the bail term was that the commission needed more time to read the documents it seized in the operation.