Henry Tang's wife Lisa Kuo fined HK$110,000 in illegal basement case

Lisa Kuo handed stiffest fine for such a case in 10 years for ‘substantial’ building work that derailed her husband’s chief executive bid

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 3:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 3:04am

Lisa Kuo Yu-chin was fined HK$110,000 yesterday over the illegal basement in her Kowloon Tong home that derailed the chief executive bid of her husband, Henry Tang Ying-yen.

The fine imposed by Kowloon City Magistrate Ko Wai-hung was the highest of 73 similar cases in the past 10 years.

"The extent of unauthorised building works in the present case is substantial," Ko said. "[The basement] was designed and constructed with professional advice and assistance."

Kuo had earlier pleaded guilty to starting construction of the reportedly 2,400 sq ft basement at the York Road house without planning approval.

Three other defendants - architect Henry Ho Chung-yi, structural engineer Wong Pak-lam and contractor Hien Lee Engineering - have pleaded not guilty. Their trial started yesterday.

Kuo originally faced two charges, but after she pleaded guilty to one charge, prosecutors decided not to pursue the other.

The basement - dubbed "an underground palace" - was reported to have lavish facilities including a wine cellar, home theatre, gymnasium and Japanese bath.

"At the time, the building works were commenced or carried out, Lisa Kuo knew that prior written approval and consent was required, but none had in fact been obtained," prosecutor Keith Oderberg told the court.

Kuo's counsel, Gary Plowman SC, described her as "extremely remorseful".

"When she decided to build that basement, she did so with the will of providing a comfortable home for her husband and four children," he said.

Plowman said the Tang family had never lived at the home, and the basement did not pose any danger to the public.

But the magistrate did not accept Kuo's assertion that the incident had brought her tremendous pressure.

He said the stress was "something she brought upon herself, and she could not blame anyone for that".

A special hearing had been earlier ordered by Acting Chief Magistrate Clement Lee Hing-nin after Kuo disputed statements attributed to engineer Chezy Tang that she had insisted on pressing ahead with construction despite having been warned by the engineer that she needed Building Authority approval.

But the court ruled yesterday that the hearing was no longer necessary as Kuo had agreed with the amended case summary from which the disputed sections had been removed.

Lee, who will try the other three defendants, passed Kuo's sentencing to Ko at the request of counsel for the trio.

Outside court, Tang said: "I am satisfied it came to a conclusion today. It has placed a lot of stress and pressure on me and my family, especially on my wife."

He said the punishment was severe compared to other case precedents in which those convicted were fined HK$500 to HK$15,000.