Two companies controlled by Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing, issued a strongly worded public denial of a story linking them to Rafael Hui Si-yan, the former government No 2 who is accused of corruption.
Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa "categorically denied" a report in Apple Daily yesterday, describing it as "baseless and misleading".
The denial comes just days before Hui, 64, and the billionaire Kwok brothers - Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 61, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 59, who head Sun Hung Kai Properties - are due to appear in court to enter pleas in Hong Kong's biggest-ever corruption case.
It follows revelations that Hui is to face a new charge that he "concealed" payments of more than HK$11 million from former Sun Hung Kai executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and ex-Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang.
In a statement, Cheung Kong (Holdings) and Hutchison Whampoa said: "The companies categorically deny a report from Apple Daily today that former Chief Secretary for Administration Mr Rafael Hui Si-yan has ever 'worked' or provided any service for the Group or Chairman Mr Li Ka-shing. The entire report is a sheer fabrication and misleads the public.
"The Group or the Chairman himself has never engaged Mr Hui in any capacity to work or provide service for him or the Group while Mr Hui was with the Government or after he had left the Government."
It said the Apple Daily report "seriously damaged the reputation of the Group".
The paper's editor-in-chief, Cheung Kim-hung, said the report was made according to reliable sources.