Hong Kong property tycoons charged with graft

Two of Hong Kong's richest tycoons and a former senior official were charged with corruption on Friday in the biggest graft scandal the regional banking hub has seen.

Sun Hung Kai Properties co-chairmen Thomas and Raymond Kwok, two of Asia's wealthiest men, were among five people charged with eight offences related to payments and unsecured loans amounting to HK$34 million ($4.38 million).

Former government chief secretary Rafael Hui was also charged, along with another Sun Hung Kai director, Thomas Chan, and Francis Kwan, former non-executive director of New Environmental Energy Holdings Ltd.

The case has shocked Hong Kong as the Kwoks own some of the city's most iconic real estate and Sun Hung Kai is a blue-chip listed company and the city's biggest property developer by market capitalisation.

Hui, 64, is the most senior official ever arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The former number two in the semi-autonomous southern Chinese city, he faces eight charges related to misconduct involving rent-free use of luxury apartments and unsecured loans, the ICAC said.

Thomas Kwok, 60, faces two charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, and his 59-year-old brother Raymond has been charged with three offences including furnishing false information, the ICAC said.

Raymond Kwok conspired to offer Hui annual extensions of an unsecured loan, while Chan and Kwan offered the official a "series of payments" as a "reward" for cooperation, the anti-graft investigators said.

All five suspects appeared in court to hear the charges, before being released on bail -- in the Kwoks' case HK$10 million each. They were not required to enter pleas.

"I believe I have not done anything wrong and that the Hong Kong judiciary system is fair. I will fight the accusations and I hope it will prove my innocence," Raymond Kwok said outside the court.

He said he has relied on yoga to deal with the legal challenge while Thomas Kwok said he will draw on his Christian faith to fight the case, quoting from the Bible saying he believed "light will shine in the darkness".

"I want to encourage people to learn yoga because it can help you to relax and it has helped me to face the challenge in these few months," Raymond Kwok told a news conference later where he appeared with his elder brother.

The Kwok brothers and Hui were arrested in March in a case that has sent shockwaves through the Asian financial centre, where cosy links between wealthy tycoons and officials have long raised suspicion.

A third Kwok brother, Walter, was arrested in May but has not been charged. Each of the Kwoks has denied any wrongdoing.

Shares in Sun Hung Kai were suspended from trading on the Hong Kong stock exchange earlier Friday.

The company, which owns billions of dollars of land and harbourside real estate, has previously said the allegations against its directors would not impact on its business.

Analysts said the case reinforced public suspicion that officials were in the pockets of Beijing-backed business elites, who control everything from ports to telecommunications and even supermarkets.

"Hong Kong has always been ruled by the 'property hegemony'," financial services firm Lyncean Holdings managing director Francis Lun told AFP.

"The property tycoons always call the shots in Hong Kong... I don't think that (the charges) will change anything, the property tycoons will get richer and they virtually own Hong Kong."

While the charges do not relate directly to the new government of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who took office earlier this month, they will fuel popular discontent with a system many see as rigged against ordinary people.

Leung has faced calls for his resignation and a legal challenge to his rule over his failure to declare illegal structures at his home, a sensitive issue in the crowded city of seven million people.

His development minister resigned after less than two weeks in the job on Thursday amid allegations he had abused his government housing allowance in the 1980s, raising questions about whether he was fit to be in the new cabinet.

Former chief executive Donald Tsang ended his term in disgrace in June after admitting to accepting gifts from tycoons in the form of trips on luxury yachts and private jets.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Muslim group calls for universal peace
    Muslim group calls for universal peace

    As predominantly Catholic Philippines and the rest of the Christian world observe the Holy Week, peace advocates like the Young Muslim Professionals Network (YMPN) are appealing to Filipinos of various creeds and persuasion to embrace the universal message of kindness, love and peace. The group issued the call as peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front teeter due to the Mamasapano incident where members of the rebel group killed 44 police commandos on a …

  • Ex-WB exec pushes BBL passage
    Ex-WB exec pushes BBL passage

    A former World Bank official has warned of dire consequences for the Philippines if the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not passed into law. Nigel Roberts, former director on conflict, security and development, said that more conflict could occur without the BBL. “It takes about 15 years to get back to pre-conflict GDP growth rates, and 20 years for trade to recover,” Roberts said in his blog at the World Bank website. The World Bank estimated that economic losses amounted to $10 …

  • Despite typhoon, summer is here
    Despite typhoon, summer is here

    Super Typhoon Chedeng roared toward Luzon as the weather bureau announced the official start of summer in the country yesterday. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) announced yesterday the official start of the dry or summer season in the country due to the termination of the cold northeast monsoon. “The general public is advised to take precautionary measures to minimize heat stress and take note of the need in optimizing the daily use of …

  • Noy told: Just answer the questions
    Noy told: Just answer the questions

    Just answer the 20 questions. The Makabayan bloc of seven party-list representatives made this appeal to President Aquino yesterday after his spokesman claimed the Chief Executive has already answered most of the questions posed by the militant lawmakers regarding the Mamasapano incident. For instance, he said the President has not yet explained why he allowed then suspended Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima to take the lead in Oplan Exodus or the mission to …

  • DFA: Malaysia paying rent for Sabah
    DFA: Malaysia paying rent for Sabah

    Malaysia does not acknowledge the Philippine claim over Sabah but the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) maintained yesterday that the Malaysian government is paying rent for Sabah, indicating it rightfully belongs to the Philippines. The Malay Mail Online reported that Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said Malaysia has not and does not acknowledge the Philippine claim over Sabah when asked by media about the reported offer of the Philippine government to downgrade its Sabah …

  • 63 OFWs returning from Yemen
    63 OFWs returning from Yemen

    Sixty-three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are set to return home from war-torn Yemen, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said yesterday. Baldoz said the licensed recruiters of the OFWs have assured the government of their immediate repatriation. Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has ordered the recruitment agencies to fulfill their obligation to bring home the OFWs. Baldoz called on Filipinos still in Yemen to avail themselves of the government’s …

  • Jinggoy gets furlough for shoulder checkup
    Jinggoy gets furlough for shoulder checkup

    Despite opposition from ombudsman lawyers, the Sandiganbayan yesterday granted detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s request to undergo a medical checkup at the Cardinal Santos Memorial Hospital. Estrada was allowed to undergo a medical examination for pain in his left shoulder from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The senator was ordered to shoulder the expenses incurred by the Philippine National Police in  escorting him. In a pleading filed Monday with the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division, Estrada’s lawyers …

  • Tekken’s Josie Rizal gets flak
    Tekken’s Josie Rizal gets flak

    A professor of the University of the Philippines yesterday hit the portrayal of a Filipino character, whose name was based on Jose Rizal, in a Japanese-produced video game. “(It’s) offensive and unsuited for a big company like Bandai because they have the money to do research,” Gonzalo Campoamor II, professor of Life and Works of Rizal in UP Diliman, told The STAR. Japanese giant Namco Bandai recently introduced Josie Rizal, the first Filipino character in the popular fighting game franchise …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options