Macau’s former chief prosecutor Ho Chio-meng jailed 21 years for crimes including fraud and money laundering

Former top official, who faced 1,536 charges in high-profile trial, was tipped to be city’s next leader

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 July, 2017, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2017, 12:09am

Macau’s former top prosecutor Ho Chio-meng was jailed on Friday for 21 years for crimes including aggravated fraud, money laundering and initiating or founding a criminal association.

Ho, 62, who left the court shouting that he was innocent, will also have to pay more than 18 million patacas (HK$17 million) to the prosecutor general’s office, and, separately, over 57 million patacas either by himself or with others, to the office.

Additionally, more than 12 million patacas in assets belonging to Ho and his wife will revert to the administration.

Ho, who faced 1,536 charges and was convicted of 10 types of crime, has no right of appeal ­because he was judged by the highest court in Macau.

He was prosecutor general from 1999 to 2014 and once tipped to become chief executive.

From 2004 to 2014, he awarded hundreds of public works contracts worth million of patacas from the prosecutions office to ­local businessmen. He and nine others were accused of pocketing at least 44 million patacas.

A three-person panel of judges concluded that actions by Ho “damaged the prosecutor general’s office and Macau society”.

Judge Song Man-lei said the behaviour of Ho had tarnished the office’s image. He had also denied the facts and shown no regret.

Despite acknowledging some administrative infractions, Ho ­repeatedly denied throughout the trial all the charges against him.

His lawyer, Oriana Pun, said she was “disappointed with the sentence and the crimes he was convicted for”. She noted the right to appeal was a “basic right”.

The case triggered renewed calls for the revision of the law that obliges top officials to be judged by the Court of Final Appeal.

Ho was arrested on February 27 last year when he was about to board a ferry to Hong Kong. His trial began on December 9.

It was the second high-profile case involving a top official since Macau returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999.

In 2006, former secretary for transport and public works Ao Man-long was arrested and later jailed for 29 years for 90 crimes mostly related to money laundering and taking bribes.

However, the Ho case is ­believed to have involved the highest number of charges in the history of Macau, and raised suspicions that high-ranking officials were behaving with impunity.

The trial of the nine suspects at the Court of First Instance ended on Wednesday, and they will hear their fate on August 15.

Some linked the fall of Ho to the anti-corruption drive of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Ho was replaced in a reshuffle by current chief executive Fernando Chui Sai-on in late 2014.

The reshuffle, which also ­included other top officials, was seen at the time as a consequence of the anti-graft campaign.