Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan and the billionaire Kwok brothers of Sun Hung Kai Properties pleaded not guilty when they appeared in Eastern Court yesterday in their high-profile trial.
With the prosecution dropping one charge against Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and Hui, the Kwok brothers - who run the world's biggest property developer by market value - now face no charges under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.
Raymond Kwok, 59, still faces two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and furnishing false information. Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 61, faces two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. The Department of Justice added a new charge of misconduct in public office against Hui, keeping at eight the number of charges he faces. They include misconduct in public office, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, furnishing false information and conspiracy to offer an advantage to a public servant.
SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, 66, and former Hong Kong Stock Exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang, 62, each pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and one of conspiracy to offer an advantage to a public servant
After the five denied the charges, Magistrate Li Kwok-wai forwarded the case to the Court of First Instance. They were freed on bail and will next appear in the High Court for a pre-trial review on a date to be fixed.
The magistrate said each of the five had the right to apply once only to a judge for discharge on the grounds that there was no prima facie case against him.
Lawyers for the Kwok brothers asked that the case be transferred to the High Court "as expeditiously as possible".
The five were first charged in July last year.
The charges allege that between 2000 and 2009 Hui received about HK$28.8 million in cash, HK$5.4 million in loans and the rent-free use of two luxury flats in Happy Valley.
In return, Hui is accused of favouring the brothers while he was the city's No2 official, during his time as an executive councillor and as the managing director of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority.
The dropped corruption charge against Hui and Raymond Kwok originally accused them of conspiring with others, between June 2005 and January 2009, to offer Hui the annual extension of a HK$3 million loan granted by a SHKP subsidiary to induce Hui to act in favour of Raymond Kwok.