The lawyer for a Sun Hung Kai Properties executive brushed off claims yesterday that his client was part of an "elaborate disguise" by which the Kwok brothers arranged to funnel millions of dollars to Hong Kong's former No 2 official.
Ian Winter QC said SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen had made no attempt to hide or disguise his identity when transferring more than HK$10 million in 2007 to a childhood friend of former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan before the funds reached him.
Winter made the statement when cross-examining Gerry Cheung Gee-yin, a director of financial services firm UBS Hong Kong, in the high-profile corruption trial that also involves SHKP co-chairmen Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen. The pair allegedly channelled HK$8.5 million and HK$11 million in 2005 and 2007 to Hui through Chan, described by the prosecution as "a loyal employee of SHKP", and Francis Kwan Hung-sang, a childhood friend of Hui's.
Hui was paid to act as the property magnate's "inside man" and "eyes and ears" in the government, the prosecution alleges in the trial.
"Chan's use of [his company] Villalta's account to make these transactions did not disguise or hide his involvement or ... involvement of his family," Winter said, referring to the 2007 payments, when cross-examining Cheung
Cheung replied: "I cannot give any comment on this."
Cheung, though, agreed with Winter's assertion that "it is very common for companies in their separate legal identities to hold bank accounts. They are not a facade or a cover for the people to own a company".
Chan, 67, had obtained residency in Singapore in 1987 and set up an account for Villalta with UBS in Singapore in October 1990, the court heard. In 2000, Chan added his two children to be the account's signatories.
"It is fair to describe the Villalta bank account as the family bank account," Winter said, to which Cheung said he had no objection.
Cheung also did not object to Winter's suggestion that it was common for Hong Kong people to acquire residence and hold bank accounts outside the city and route money through UBS Hong Kong before 1997.
Hui, 66, faces eight counts related to bribery and misconduct in public office. Thomas Kwok, 62, and Raymond Kwok, 61, face three and four charges respectively. Chan and Kwan, a former Hong Kong stock exchange official, 63, each face two charges.