Panama Papers

Hong Kong’s Kwok brothers caught up in Australian detention centre scandal

The ‘Panama Papers’ reveal that the Kwoks were behind the security firm running controversial offshore processing camps

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 12:19am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 2:48pm

Hong Kong’s billionaire Kwok brothers are in the spotlight again after leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm revealed they were behind the security firm running Australia’s controversial offshore refugee processing camps.

The “Panama Papers”, which are causing a global sensation by revealing how the world’s rich and powerful are hiding their wealth in tax havens, have piled pressure on the Canberra government to terminate its contracts with Australian company Wilson Security, which has earned about half a billion Australian dollars from them.

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The two brothers of Sun Hung Kai Properties were charged with bribing Hong Kong’s former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan in 2012, but covertly remained in control of Wilson Security through Wilson Offshore Group Holdings in the British Virgin Islands, according to ABC News, which was part of the consortium of investigative journalists that studied the leaked documents.

Two weeks after the brothers were charged in 2012, both of them removed themselves as directors from the BVI firm, only to replace themselves with two mysterious new directors that were companies, Winsome Sky and Harmony Core.

The leaked files show the directors of those mystery companies were in fact the Kwok brothers themselves.

The BVI company controlled the Wilson Group that covered Wilson Security.

Six months before Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong was convicted and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen acquitted in December 2014, Wilson Security was ­engaged in a tender process for a defence contract, ABC reported.

The broadcaster raised concerns about the risk of dealing with directors charged with serious corruption offences .

Wilson Security has faced accusations that it lacks the experience to manage the Australian government’s detention centres in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The centres, set up to house asylum seekers landing in mainland Australia, have been accused of placing detainees in harsh conditions and systemic child abuse.

“Wilson Security must be stripped of their contract for running Manus Island and the Nauru detention centres,” Australian senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

Wilson Security denied that the Kwok brothers had ever been its directors.

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The two camps managed by Wilson Security are the result of Canberra’s hardline policy under which asylum seekers who reach Australia are denied resettlement, even if they are found to be genuine refugees, and are instead sent to offshore detention centres.

The security firm’s management of the camps has been the subject of public debate in Australia, culminating in a nationwide protest in November last year.

A spokesperson for the country’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection said there were strict rules governing ­procurements.

The Australian consulate-general in Hong Kong would not comment on the report.

The Panama documents are the biggest leak of confidential information ever. They also revealed action star Jackie Chan had at least six companies managed by the law firm the papers came from. But the group of investigators conceded that owning offshore companies was not illegal.