Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po was challenged by a shareholder yesterday over loans to former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, who is embroiled in the city's biggest corruption case.
At the bank's annual general meeting yesterday, the shareholder, who did not disclose her name, asked Li the exact amount of the loans and the reason for lending the money to Hui, who earned several million Hong Kong dollars a year. Media reports last year said the loans amounted to HK$60 million and were unsecured.
"Did the bank forgo the traditional prudential approach in its lending business?" she asked.
Li said he could not talk about the details of the debts, which are the subject of a writ BEA filed against Hui in the High Court last month, asking that he repay alleged debts related to overdrafts and credit cards. But Li denied the loans were unsecured.
"We are asking Hui to pay back the entire amount of the loans, and he is now paying us in batches," Li said.
Deputy chief executive Tong Hon-shing told the shareholder the bank had maintained a high level of risk management.
Hui is facing charges of corruption and bribery alongside the billionaire brothers Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties.
In the writ, BEA asks Hui to pay all money due under two overdraft facilities and two credit cards the bank provided to him under a cardholder agreement.
The bank also wants him to pay interest and costs related to a breach of the terms of the facilities and the agreement. The writ did not disclose the amount of money involved. A senior banker said BEA would have to disclose the details of the loans in the later stages of a court case.
At the meeting, 95 per cent of shareholders voted to re-elect Li as a director of the bank. And 70 per cent voted in favour of granting a general mandate to the board to issue additional shares not exceeding 10 per cent of the existing shares.
Meanwhile, BEA deputy chief executive Adrian Li Man-kiu said he expected property transaction volumes in the city to fall this month in line with the trend over the past few months.
BEA's mortgage loan volume fell 30 per cent in March from February and would continue to decline, he said after the topping-out ceremony of the bank's new building in Central. He expects the bank's overall loan growth to be below 10 per cent this year.
The bank appointed Peter Lee Ka-kit as a non-executive director at a fee of HK$260,000 per year. Lee, a son of property tycoon Lee Shau-kee, who stepped down on April 24 as an independent non-executive director of BEA, is a vice-chairman of Henderson Land Development.