High stakes: Hong Kong property owners press estate management in alleged bid-rigging case over HK$260 million project

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 September, 2015, 4:37pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 September, 2015, 1:49am

Four property owners of a Sha Tin estate embroiled in an alleged rigged bid for a HK$260 million renovation project will ask the courts this afternoon to determine whether the current owners' corporation management committee is violating the law by delaying a meeting for its own re-election.

Each owner at Garden Vista faces a bill of up to HK$350,000.

Filing the claim with the Lands Tribunal on behalf of dozens of owners, the owners' representatives yesterday said they had lost all confidence in the estate's current management.

According to court documents and the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the chairman of the estate's incorporated owners, Lai Kwok-leung, was allegedly given HK$26 million - 10 per cent of the project fee - by a subcontractor that allegedly paid sweeteners to several people between 2005 and last year to acquire information to help it secure the bid.

The trial has been transferred to the District Court.

Lam Cheuk-ting, one of the owners' representatives and chief executive of the Democratic Party, said the management committee had failed to comply with the 45-day legal requirement to hold an owners' meeting for the management committee's re-election, after receiving on July 27 joint signatures from 5 per cent of the owners, a legal threshold to trigger the process.

READ MORE: Hong Kong flat owners warned of new scam by bid-rigging syndicates

“They [management committee] said they would need to verify the signatures but this was what they should have finished during the 45-day period,” Lam said.

Another representative, Cho Kim-wah, said owners had no way to monitor the renovation which they feared would cost more than HK$260 million. A reshuffle of the estate's management was the only way to ease concerns, he said.

"It's all done behind closed doors and now they have the power to approve any small project which costs no more than HK$200,000 each," Cho said.

The estate's management committee could not be reached for comment.

To close many of the “legal loopholes open for exploitation”, Lam said the government should consider emergency legislation to make any breach of the city’s building management ordinance a criminal offence. He said this option was preferable to relying on a public consultation which would usually take two to three years. 

He said the home affairs minister should also be authorised to intervene when any irregularities were noticed so that owners would not need to use their own money to sue the owners’ corporation of their estate.