The trial of three company heads alleged to have pocketed HK$12.6 million in commissions from a cigarette-smuggling racket started yesterday after months of delay. But it went ahead in the absence of one of the alleged conspirators, Lu Dayong, 60, former director of Hong Kong-based Nanyang Brothers Tobacco Company, manufacturer of Double Happiness cigarettes. Lu, who has absconded, is said to have conspired with his girlfriend Ko Kit, 39, Chan Kai-san, 40, and other unknown conspirators who headed two companies, Hang Chun and Golden Leaf, which Lu approved as overseas distributors for his company's products. The cigarettes are alleged to have been smuggled to the mainland from Hong Kong via other places including the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam. In a 59-page document presented to open the case yesterday, the prosecution alleged the commissions were paid through various parties from the mainland in the form of deposits, cash and company or casino cheques to bank accounts controlled by unknown conspirators and Ko, who then received and held the funds on behalf of Lu in her bank accounts. The trio were said to have received the substantial commissions during the 14 months from December 2002 to February 2004, when they were arrested by undercover agents. The prosecution said anti-graft agents found Lu kept a diary on the commission payments and cigarette shipments. Ko, a former restaurant receptionist, had no experience in business dealing and was financially dependent on Lu despite holding top positions in the two overseas distributors, the court heard. The prosecution said the three were caught during covert surveillance discussing the cigarette shipments or commission payments. All three denied a charge of conspiracy to defraud and another count of conspiracy to arrange for Lu to accept an advantage. Lu and Ko pleaded not guilty to another count of conspiracy to arrange for Lu to accept an advantage. The trial continues today before Judge Joseph Yau Chi-lap.