The man who put up US$1m for Jimmy Lai hit

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 August, 2009, 12:00am

A Hong Kong businessman living in Taiwan put up a US$1 million bounty to have media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and former Democratic Party chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming shot on July 1, a Shenzhen court heard last month.

In police evidence seen by the Sunday Morning Post, and which was presented to the court, two of the suspects on trial over the shooting plot named the Hong Kong businessman as its mastermind.

The pair - Tung Nga-man, 66, known as 'Brother Kam', and Chan Siu-ming, 60, known as 'Uncle Seven' - are among 10 defendants in the case. They were tried behind closed doors at the Shenzhen Intermediate People's Court on July 22.

The prosecution accused Tung, Chan and the third main suspect on trial, Yu Wai-shan, 62, known as 'Fat Yu', of being senior triad leaders.

The defendants were arrested following a police sweep after the arrest in Hong Kong of mainlander Huang Nanhua. The 50-year-old was stopped at a police roadblock in Mong Kok on August 14 last year and found in possession of a pistol, five bullets and personal details of the intended targets.

Last month the Court of First Instance sentenced Huang to 16 years in jail for his role in the plot against Mr Lee and Mr Lai. He was convicted of possessing a gun and ammunition with intent to commit an arrestable offence. A friend of Huang's, Hong Kong resident Ho Wai-kam, 50, was jailed for three years for smuggling a gun and bullets into Hong Kong from Shenzhen.

The Hong Kong court did not consider whether the gunman had tried to kill Mr Lee or Mr Lai. The court heard the plot's 'likely target' was Mr Lee.

However, the evidence to the Shenzhen court seen by the Post suggests strongly that Mr Lai was the businessman's main target.

According to the evidence, the Hong Kong businessman in Taiwan 'ultimately funded' the plot.

Tung, named as the top defendant in the case, told police he flew to Taiwan to see the businessman. 'He said [Jimmy] Lai Chee-ying was anti-government and anti-state, and so on, and that it should be OK to spend some money to teach him a lesson,' Tung said.

Chan, a Hongkonger who also has United States citizenship, told police he had heard from Tung that the Hong Kong businessman was the plot's mastermind.

The original plan was to kill Mr Lai and Mr Lee. The option of merely injuring them was later added. The attack was initially slated for July 1, when both men would be seen together on the annual pro-democracy march, the court heard.

'I heard that Brother Kam had planned to fly to Taiwan to celebrate with [the Hong Kong businessman] and create a July 1 alibi,' Chan said.

A Hong Kong police spokesman said investigations of the matter were continuing and it was not appropriate to comment on the case.

Mr Lee told the Post yesterday he was surprised that the Hong Kong businessman had been fingered as the mastermind behind a plot to kill or injure him.

'I can't think of any reason for it,' he said.

At the July 22 hearing, Tung and Yu denied charges of attempted murder, but the other eight defendants, including Chan, pleaded guilty to attempting to cause injury.

The Shenzhen court has yet to make a judgment in the case.

Tung, Yu and Chan first met in June last year to discuss what was at first a murder plot. But Chan later instructed people he hired to do the task to merely injure Mr Lai and Mr Lee, the court heard. The task eventually fell to Huang.

Tung told police that in May he had met Yu and a middleman of the Hong Kong businessman for yum cha. The middleman told them 'someone should teach Jimmy Lai a lesson', the court heard.

'We talked about Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai of the Apple Daily and about them making anti-China comments, eg. comments about a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which were galling,' he said.

Yu was asked to find someone to teach that lesson, the court heard.

About 10 days later, Yu said he had found someone but it would cost US$1 million to execute the plot. The middleman said he would have to discuss it with his boss, the court heard.

The middleman gave Tung the phone number of the businessman. Tung told police that the businessman subsequently told him he had given the middleman the US$1 million. Tung later flew to Taiwan for his meeting with the businessman.

Yu said he was told the payment would be US$1 million for murdering Mr Lai and 70 per cent of the sum for injuring him.

Chan, who claims to have an MBA, told police Yu asked him to find someone to kill Mr Lai and Mr Lee.

He said that while he was told by Tung that the best occasion to kill them would be July 1, the hit could also be performed outside Mr Lai's home in Mong Kok.

Chan told police Tung had informed him that Mr Lee regularly took a walk at 6am and could be ambushed in the course of it. Chan was given a list of seven addresses Mr Lai often visited.

Yu told the court he had never mentioned killing Mr Lai or Mr Lee. Rather, he said, he had given Chan more than 70,000 yuan (HK$79,500) to 'warn and threaten Jimmy Lai against making anti-China and anti-Communist Party comments'.