Corruption in China
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Bribe demands shocked contractor

A former manager of a Swire Pacific subsidiary told a court yesterday that his colleague was 'very surprised' at how openly Macau's former public works chief, Ao Man-long, requested bribes for renewing a contract.

Frederico Marques Nolasco da Silva described Lionel Krieger's shock while testifying in District Court at the trial of Krieger and another director of the Swire Pacific waste services company, CSR-Macau. Da Silva, who is already serving a jail term for his role in the corruption scandal, said Ao called Krieger, twice in 2002 or 2003 saying he was 'expecting something' for renewing a government cleaning contract.

'Mr Krieger was very surprised how open Mr Ao was in talking about such things over the phone,' da Silva said. The contract was supposed to be renewed automatically in 2006, if the government was satisfied with the service, he said.

Krieger, 63, and James Tam Ping-cheong, 57, are accused of conspiring with da Silva between January 2002 and December 2006 to pay Ao with 29 million patacas to secure government contracts. Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Ao eventually received only five cheques signed by da Silva's wife amounting to HK$7.37 million before his arrest in December 2006.

Examined by prosecutor Neil Mitchell, da Silva said he and Krieger had met Ao twice after the two phone calls. Ao asked Krieger at one meeting: 'Don't you know that presents are given for contracts?'

The three directors did not take Ao seriously in the beginning and tried to convince him they could not raise the money as auditors were strict, da Silva said. They hoped Ao would leave office before the contract came up for renewal in 2004, but Ao was reappointed in the same year.

They realised that if they did not take action, they would risk losing not only the current contract, but also two newer contracts. The three contracts were worth 1.1 billion patacas in total.

They then wrote a proposal to pay Ao through Polymile, a company da Silva's wife owned, disguising the bribes as consultancy fees. Ao was jailed in 2009 for 28 years on 81 counts involving hundreds of millions of patacas, while da Silva was convicted in 2008 and is serving a six-year sentence in Portugal for bribery and money laundering.

The case was Macau's biggest corruption scandal since the handover.