Bail ruling overturned by US court

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 May, 1996, 12:00am

Doubts about the extradition status of Hong Kong after the handover were not enough to secure the release of a former tobacco executive wanted by the ICAC, a US court ruled yesterday.

Jerry Lui Kin-hong, 41, is being held in a Massachusetts jail while fighting an attempt to extradite him to the territory to face $33 million corruption charges.

He was granted bail last month when a judge accepted his lawyers' argument that the extradition process would not be completed until after the handover.

Lui would then have to be released anyway because there is no extradition treaty between the US and China, they said.

But the decision was overturned yesterday by the US Court of Appeals. Lui had remained in custody pending the ruling.

Chief Judge Torruella and circuit judges Stahl and Lynch said the handover issue did not amount to the 'special circumstances' required to win his release.

They expected the extradition proceedings to be completed well before July 1, 1997.

Even if this were not the case, an agreement between the US and China over extradition might yet be reached, they said.

Lui can make a new application for bail should circumstances change.

The ruling was welcomed by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). A government lawyer said: 'I think it has struck a blow to those peddling this reversion argument.' Lui, former commercial director of British American Tobacco (Hong Kong), was arrested at Logan Airport, Boston, in December.

He is accused of accepting bribes from a cigarette distribution company to ensure the supply of certain brands for export to China and Taiwan.

The order to grant him US$1.3 million (HK$10 million) bail, made by US District Court Judge Joseph Tauro on April 25, was accompanied by strict conditions including electronic tagging.

The Court of Appeals was told by Lui's lawyers that complex legal issues would prolong the extradition process until after July 1, 1997.

The handover issue is expected to be raised again during the extradition hearing on May 28.

Lui claims he would not go on trial in Hong Kong until after the reversion to China.