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Apple Daily boss Jimmy Lai arrives at the Mong Kok police station shortly before 1pm on Wednesday. Photo: Dickson Lee

Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai charged with fraud along with two Next Digital executives, but no national security law crimes

  • The Apple Daily boss was arrested in August in a high-profile operation that saw scores of police raid his Tseung Kwan O offices
  • He was also alleged at the time to have colluded with foreign forces, but was not charged under the city’s national security law on Wednesday
Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying was charged with fraud on Wednesday night but not for alleged collusion with foreign forces, a crime covered under the city’s sweeping national security law that was originally cited during his August arrest.

The Next Digital founder, who is expected to be detained overnight, arrived at Mong Kok Police Station at about 12.52pm, before meeting his legal representatives in the lobby. He told waiting reporters he was “not going to think about that now” when asked about the possibility of being remanded in custody.

A pair of senior executives from Next Digital, which owns the Apple Daily newspaper, were also charged with fraud after reporting to the Western and Tsuen Wan police stations, respectively.

The two are Royston Chow Tat-kuen, the company’s chief operating officer and chief financial officer, and chief administrative officer Wong Wai-keung.

All three are accused of breaching land-lease terms by improperly using Next Digital’s office space in Tseung Kwan O. They are expected to appear in West Kowloon Court on Thursday.

Lai, Chow and Wong were arrested in a high-profile police operation that saw more than 200 officers raid the Next Digital offices on August 10.

During the same operation, Lai’s eldest son, Timothy Lai Kin-yang, 42, was also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. Cheung Kim-hung, CEO of Next Digital, was also detained over the same offence, along with the company’s animation director, Ng Tat-kong.

Both Lai and Chow were additionally alleged to have colluded with foreign forces to endanger national security at the time. Lai’s son Ian Lai Yiu-yan was also arrested on that basis.

Police detained former student activist Agnes Chow Ting and two others for the same alleged crime later that same day.

The other two arrested were Wilson Li Chung-chak, a freelancer for ITV and former member of the now-disbanded student activist group Scholarism, and Andy Li, a member of the Election Observation Mission, set up to monitor last November’s district council elections.

Pro-democracy activist Agnes Chow, also accused of colluding with foreign forces, was arrested on the same August day as Jimmy Lai. Photo: Winson Wong
Andy Li is now being detained by authorities in Shenzhen after his August arrest in Chinese waters as he attempted to flee to Taiwan with 11 other fugitives wanted over offences tied to the anti-government protest movement that erupted last year.

A police spokesman confirmed late on Wednesday that three men, aged 59 to 73, had been charged with one count of fraud, while another five suspected of involvement had been allowed to go after reporting to authorities, but must report back in March.

Police were still investigating alleged offences under the national security law involving some of the suspects, he added.

The arrests of the Apple Daily boss and others came eight weeks after Beijing imposed the controversial national security law banning acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

As of the end of October, police had arrested 23 men and six women under the law. Offenders face sentences ranging up to life in prison.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Lai charged with fraud, not collusion