Teresa Cheng

Hong Kong buildings authority confirms 10 illegal structures at three properties of Hong Kong justice minister Teresa Cheng

For first time, Buildings Department verifies existence of home enhancements at embattled official’s flat in Repulse Bay and two more units in Sha Tin

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 8:36pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 January, 2018, 11:10pm

Hong Kong’s beleaguered justice minister Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah was confirmed on Friday to have illegal structures at three more properties, officials said.

It is the first time the Buildings Department verified the existence of unauthorised structures at the properties. The news followed Cheng’s disclosure on Sunday of potential illegal structures at the locations.

Controversy first erupted on January 6, when the justice minister took office, as her home in Tuen Mun was found to have unauthorised structures, including an illegal basement.

According to a statement by the department on Friday, 10 structures built without the department’s approval were found at the three additional properties – a flat in Repulse Bay and two units in Sha Tin. They included three “actionable” structures and seven that were “non-actionable”.

Only actionable illegal structures need to be removed, but the department said the justice minister would also rectify the other ones.

The three actionable structures included a defective lobby and altered windows at Cheng’s HK$62 million (US$7.9 million) flat at Sea Cliff Mansions in Repulse Bay, as well as a supporting frame for an air conditioner at her property in Kin Ho Industrial Building in Sha Tin.

The rest were balcony railings, defective fire-resistant doors and small supporting frames for air conditioners at Sea Cliff; additional partitions, small supporting frames for air conditioners and defective fire-resistant doors at Kin Ho; and a substandard fire-resistant door in a flat at Royal Ascot, also in Sha Tin.

“After considering the rectification works proposal ... the [department] has replied to [Cheng’s representatives] about its acceptance of the proposal,” the authority said in its statement.

It added that the works at Sea Cliff would take about three months to complete while structures at the other two properties would be finished in one week.

The justice minister has faced pressure from local lawmakers to explain the illegal structures, with some urging her to quit.

Cheng is suspected to have bought her Sea Cliff flat as a first-time buyer, paying a stamp duty of HK$2.6 million, despite already holding properties through her companies.

Had she not bought that flat as a first-time buyer, she would have had to pay HK$9.3 million in stamp duty.

The sale and purchase agreement – signed by Cheng’s husband, Otto Poon Lok-to, but listing Cheng as the buyer – also specified there were illegal structures at the flat, indicating Cheng had bought it with knowledge of their existence.

Earlier this month, the department found 10 illegal structures at Cheng and Poon’s homes in Villa De Mer in Tuen Mun. These structures added some 1,800 sq ft of space to the two adjacent houses.