ICAC seeks frozen millions of dead corrupt officer

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 May, 2010, 12:00am

Graft-busters will seek to reclaim millions of dollars in assets of one of the most notorious police officers in Hong Kong's history, after he died and was buried this week in Canada.

Lui Lok, dubbed the 'HK$500 Million Sergeant', was one of the 'Four Great Sergeants' who ruled during the 1960s and early 1970s and who fled as the government prepared to set up the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

It was not clear when or where Lui, who was 90, died.

Media reports in Canada said it was in Vancouver.

About 80 family members and friends gathered at Forest Lawn cemetery in Burnaby, British Columbia, for a Taoist funeral on Thursday.

Two other members of the corrupt quartet are also known to have died - Nan Kong, in Thailand in 1989, and Hon Sum, in Taiwan in 1999.

There were rumours that the fourth, Ngan Hung, died in 2008 but this has not been confirmed.

Lui joined the Royal Hong Kong Police Force in 1940 and was promoted to staff sergeant in the New Territories in 1956. In those days it was a powerful rank that enabled him to receive bribes from drug dealers, gambling dens and vice operators.

The four sergeants divided Hong Kong among them, extracting bribes known as 'tea money', 'black money' and 'hell money', a practice the public accepted with resignation as a necessary part of life.

But their empire began to crumble in the 1960s as the government started to crack down on corruption - before setting up the ICAC in 1974 - and Liu applied for early retirement in 1968.

'He fled to Taiwan first and then Canada afterwards,' a veteran ICAC official, who had handled Lui's case, said. The agency issued a wanted notice for Lui, who may already have had Taiwanese and Canadian citizenship, in 1976.

But efforts to bring him to justice were thwarted by the lack of an extradition treaty with Taiwan and the fact that the city's extradition treaty with Canada was only for offences common to both jurisdictions. The offence of having assets 'disproportionate to and unable to be explained or accounted for by his official emoluments, awards, or allowance' is not a common one elsewhere.

Millions of Lui's ill-gotten gains were frozen by the ICAC, which will now seek to reclaim them through the courts as it did in the case of Hon after his death.

Some of the assets, worth about HK$10 million, were recovered in a settlement reached with Lui's family in 1986.

The head of the ICAC operation department, Daniel Li Ming-chak, said yesterday the agency would first confirm Lui's death, then have a meeting with the Justice Department about reclaiming the frozen assets.

After Hon's death, the government filed a writ in July 2000 seeking to recover assets from his estate that had been frozen by the ICAC.

This resulted in one of the biggest settlements in the commission's history, with the family agreeing to give up HK$140 million in assets in 2006 in an out-of-court deal.