Chen Po-sum did not become a prime powerbroker at the stock exchange by overlooking details. She is, if nothing else, a survivor - a survivor who was not going to let eight charges of receiving bribes for helping smooth through A-share floor seat applications destroy what took a lifetime to build. For the first 10 days in court, Ms Chen was immaculately tailored, but by the time she was asked to take the witness stand, the power suits had given way to a homely cardigan, making her look less like a former vice chairman of the stock exchange and more a kindly 66-year-old grandmother. As a child in Japanese occupied China, Ms Chen was separated from her family. The frightened, illiterate 14-year-old found her way to Hong Kong. Like a cliched Hollywood script, half a century later she was awarded an MBE and was living in the lap of luxury. 'She is shrewd in an unsophisticated sort of way,' a colleague said. 'She got into the market 20 years ago when anyone could become a stock broker. You didn't need much money. A million could swing it. 'She was not one of the leading stock brokers. Her power was from being on the stock exchange council. 'That is how she amassed power. Say what you will about her, she is a street-fighter.' But everything that Ms Chen had worked for was in danger of being lost on February 3, 1996, when the ICAC launched a dawn raid on her house while she and her family were still sleeping. Her repeated requests for a solicitor were ignored and Ms Chen was taken to the offices of her company, Coin Fall, where the ICAC seized documents that they believed would prove the bribery allegations. The ICAC maintained that during the 66-year-old Ms Chen's tenure as convenor of the powerful stock exchange membership committee she accepted $800,000 for supporting a bid by Nomura Securities (Hong Kong) to purchase a floor seat from On Wah Securities. But Ms Chen maintained the money was a commission for acting as a middleman when On Wah wanted to unload the seat. The seat was snapped up by the Japanese firm for $7 million. That was not the only charge. The investigators said she accepted another $800,000 for the transfer of three A-share seats from Shing On Securities to Emperor Securities. The three Shing On seats were sold for $29.1 million, just slightly below the asking price, to Emperor Securities on May 4, 1994. Ms Chen's direct commission was $200,000, less than 2 per cent of the selling price. The most damning evidence was the tortuous trail the payments took before they landed in Ms Chen's Bangkok Bank accounts. The $800,000 Nomura commission was placed in the account of Ms Chen's former housekeeper Tse Ah-yee, an aged 90-year-old housekeeper who left for China 11 years ago. From there it split and flowed to three other accounts including Ms Chen's own company, Wai Tak Po. The Emperor cash was paid into the accounts of her daughter-in-law, Angela Tse Ngan-ling, who claimed she first alerted Ms Chen to the rumour Emperor wanted to buy. But Ms Chen's barrister, Kevin Egan, countered the charges by claiming the Tse Ah-yee account was a holding account for the family run company. He called the bookkeeping nothing more than 'the eccentric behaviour of an old woman'. 'If the prosecution had taken a balanced approached and examined the accounts they would have found there were explanations,' he said. Even the Director of Public Prosecutions, Peter Nguyen QC, said the practice of taking 'commissions' or 'fees' for introducing a prospective buyer to a member who was trying to unload a seat was not uncommon. What the Crown needed to prove, and failed to do, was Ms Chen's 'state of mind'. It claimed the solicited money was 'an inducement or reward for her supporting these applications'. 'If ever there was an inducement to do your job in a certain way, this was it,' Mr Nguyen said. Unlike the microscopic scrutiny new firms applying for A shares must undergo, application approval for A-share seats by existing seat holders is considered 'a rubber-stamp'. Why, Mr Egan maintained, would any company try to bribe an official when it knew there would be no opposition to it gaining a seat? Even stock exchange chairman Anthony Neoh, who was called into court by the prosecution to testify, said the rules surrounding commissions for membership committee members were murky. 'The issue of whether [approval committee members] should take a commission is a grey area,' Mr Neoh said. The court heard that the exchange did not have a clear policy 'for people who act as introducers' for companies seeking to sell their seats. The guidelines did not cover 'someone acting as a go-between' for companies involved in the buying and selling of floor seats. While the lengthy three-week trial continued, jurors fell asleep, shook themselves awake and fell asleep again. But the entire court bolted awake when, during the closing arguments, the stone-faced Ms Chen wept and wailed at the sight of her frail 72-year-old husband shuffling into the court. He left when the judge adjourned the hearing for 15 minutes to allow Ms Chen to compose herself. It was Choi Fook's first and only appearance throughout the course of his wife's trial. 'He just came to show his support,' son Jo-Jo Choy said.