Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan did not exert influence on a transport official who was handling a request by Sun Hung Kai Properties to change policies on the mode of transport servicing Ma Wan, a high-profile corruption trial heard yesterday.
Irene Ho Wai-yin, now acting assistant commissioner for transport, was testifying about SHKP's request in 2006 to review the ratio of ferries to buses connecting Ma Wan, where the firm was undertaking a residential-commercial project, to the rest of Hong Kong.
Hui is alleged to have given SHKP inside information related to the Ma Wan and West Kowloon Cultural District projects.
He is accused of receiving tens of millions of dollars in cash and other inducements from SHKP co-chairmen Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen and two others without declaring the benefits.
The Court of First Instance heard that in June 2006, Thomas Kwok wrote to Michael Suen Ming-yeung, then secretary for housing, planning and lands, concerning a policy that ferries must make up 75 per cent of public transport to Ma Wan, and buses 25 per cent.
In the letter, copied to Hui, Kwok wanted the rule relaxed.
Eventually, Ho, in her 2007 review report, recommended abolishing the sea-to-land transport ratio. She had read an SHKP-commissioned consultancy report that found minimal traffic impact brought by additional bus trips via the Tsing Ma Bridge.
Barrister Clare Montgomery QC, for Thomas Kwok, asked Ho whether Hui had tried to influence her or the then commissioner for transport, Alan Wong Chi-kong, over the decision.
Ho said Hui had not influenced her decision. He was not involved in the review and she did not report to him, she said.
Earlier yesterday, defence lawyers took issue with a prosecutor's question allegedly implying SHKP was shown favour in the 1990s. Montgomery demanded witness Lui Sung-yee, a former assistant commissioner for transport, be summoned again after he had left the court building.
Lui, now director of corporate affairs at SHKP subsidiary Wilson Group, earlier testified about his assignment to coordinate with SHKP over a project, Sai Sha, near Sai Kung. Lead prosecutor David Perry QC had suggested that Hui, as commissioner for transport, appointed a subordinate in 1993 and 1994 to assume that coordinating role. "
Can you give us an example of another developer other than Sun Hung Kai for whom you acted as a coordinating officer?" Perry asked. Lui replied: "I don't remember anything like that happening before."
Mr Justice Andrew Macrae allowed Montgomery's request to recall Lui over the "innuendo", but added that Perry was entitled to ask that question.
When recalled, Lui viewed a document showing Hui's immediate predecessor, Peter Leeds, had named a coordinator in 1992 to work with developers. Lui agreed with Montgomery that it was "proper", "normal" and "essential" for a developer to meet government departments to discuss development plans.
"I know one of the things that Hong Kong people are worried about is collusion," Montgomery said. Lui said: "I think that early communication is useful."
Hui, 66, faces eight counts related to bribery and misconduct in public office. Thomas Kwok, 62, faces one charge of conspiracy to offer an advantage to Hui and two counts of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Raymond Kwok, 61, faces four charges, including one with Hui of furnishing false information. SHKP executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and former Hong Kong stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang each face two charges. All plead not guilty. The trial continues.