Macau has begun to recover land lost in deals approved by a corrupt former minister, but seizing sites from developers by voiding land contracts appears to be a challenging task. Rectifying corrupt land deals is part of the government's effort to repair damage done by Ao Man-long, the jailed former secretary for transport and public works. The first site was recently recovered, but critics say progress in recovering other land has been too slow. Ao is awaiting a verdict in his second graft trial, which began last month. He was jailed for 27 years on 57 counts of bribe-taking, money laundering and other charges in another trial last year. The second trial has looked at 10 land deals approved by Ao, who allegedly took bribes in return for approving sales at strikingly low prices. The government last month seized a 3,633 square metre site on Rua de Fernao Mendes Pinto on Taipa Island from a developer who traded a 50 square metre site for it. In 2006, Ao approved the land swap with Tang Kim-man, which resulted in a loss to the government of an estimated 12 million patacas. Tang, who fled Macau, was tried in absentia and sentenced to 121/2 years' jail last year. Macau lawyer Miguel Fernandes said it was not difficult to recover undeveloped sites from people who bribed Ao. 'If a land approval is found to be illegal, any rights derived from the approval can be nullified,' he said. Developers whose land was at risk of seizure by the government could argue their cases before the Administrative Tribunal, according to Mr Fernandes. It is believed that several sites approved for sale by Ao will be relatively easy to retrieve. A site in the Penha Hill area and another at the foot of Guia Hill, where Ao gave a developer his consent to build 17 villas, are as yet undeveloped. But retrieval of developed sites could be highly complicated with third-party interests involved, the lawyer said. 'There might be properties already sold to a third party and the law has to protect the buyer's rights,' he said. Residential towers have been built on some of the sites. Flats built on one of the sites were even sold last year - after Ao had been convicted. Legislator Au Kam-san, a critic of Macau's land policies, suggested that corrupt deals leading to developed sites could still be rectified through fines. 'Those who bribed to get sites should be fined according to the profit they reaped from illegal land deals,' he said. Mr Au uncovered problems with dozens of land deals and mounted fierce attacks on Macau's land policies at least a year before Ao's arrest. Macau's Land Law requires that land sales occur through open bidding, with exceptions having to be approved by the chief executive. But only a handful of more than 400 land deals have undergone the open bidding process since the 1999 handover. Corrupt land deals have become a source of public anger, with residents decrying 'land giveaways' in almost every large public protest in the past few years. The Commission Against Corruption of Macau said in a report last year that Macau should consider more frequent use of public bidding to prevent corruption in land deals. The government has taken steps to enhance transparency in land sales and zoning. For instance, the public will be allowed to listen to a Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau meeting on recent land applications today in the Edifice CEM building. Mr Au said for the government to fully restore public confidence, Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah should clarify doubts about his own role in suspect land deals. Ao mentioned in court that any project worth more than 6 million patacas had to be approved by his 'boss'. Ao's lawyer, David Gomes, also said in court that the last word on public works and land deals was the chief executive's.