Zeng Wei, the disgraced property tycoon who lived as a fugitive for more than two years, was sentenced yesterday to two years and three months in jail after admitting he had offered a HK$2.3 million bribe to a banker to extend the due date of loans totalling more than HK$2.7 billion.
Zeng, 51, appeared in the District Court after being extradited to Hong Kong on June 19 from Saipan.
His mere appearance was a change from 2011, when he failed to show up for his trial and wasn't heard from again until January, when he was arrested trying to enter the US Pacific territory with a false passport.
He pleaded guilty to one count of offering advantages to Derick Chan Po-fui, then head of corporate banking with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (Asia) Limited (ICBC) in October 2010.
Zeng's lawyer, Cheng Huan SC, told the court Zeng had indicated in 2011 that he would plead guilty and had offered to testify against the banker. He fled only because he thought his mother had had a heart attack shortly before the trial, Cheng said.
But Judge Sham Siu-man said: "His behaviour tells the court one thing only. He had no intention to help the prosecution at all."
The judge also found Zeng did not deserve the usual sentencing discount for his guilty plea.
"If the court gives the full one-third discount to all [absconded] offenders, it would encourage more to take the risk," Sham said.
Zeng originally faced four charges, but the prosecution agreed to withdraw one that alleged he had offered HK$2 million to Chan Yick-yiu, then a banker with ICBC, in 2009. The judge ordered that two other charges, one of offering a mobile phone to Derick Chan and one of conspiracy to launder money, be left on the court file.
Prosecutor Peggy Lo told the court Zeng was the major shareholder and a director of United Win Holdings Limited which engaged in property development and operated hotels and golf courses through subsidiaries or affiliated companies.
Zeng applied for three loans of US$65 million (about HK$500 million), HK$200 million and HK$2 billion from ICBC over a period of 14 months in 2006 and 2007 for which he stood as guarantor. He was required to repay the money within periods ranging from six months to three years.
Seven times, Zeng requested the bank to allow him to extend the due dates, between 2007 and 2009. Chan approved some of his applications.
On October 5, 2010, Zeng withdrew HK$2.3 million cash from his personal account, went to went to the coffee shop of Mandarin Oriental Hotel and gave chan Chan the money. Officers with the Independent Commission Against Corruption then arrested the pair.