HK tycoon, former deputy leader jailed for corruption
HONG Kong property tycoon Thomas Kwok and the city's former deputy leader were jailed yesterday, after a corruption trial that shocked the city and deepened anger at cosy ties between officialdom and big business.
Former chief secretary Rafael Hui, 66, was jailed for 71/2 years on five graft charges, including misconduct in a public office - making him the highest-ranking official in Hong Kong's history to be found guilty of taking bribes.
Kwok, 63 - who was joint chairman of the southern Chinese city's biggest property company, Sun Hung Kai - was sentenced to five years in jail. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office over a series of payments totalling HK$8.5 million (S$1.4 million) to Hui.
The seven-month trial centred on a total of HK$34 million in handouts, which the prosecution said were made to Hui by Kwok and his billionaire brother Raymond Kwok to be their "eyes and ears" in government.
Raymond Kwok was cleared of all charges and Thomas Kwok cleared of two of the three against him.
"It is vitally important in these times that the Hong Kong government and business community remain - and are seen to remain - corruption-free, particularly when the mainland (China) is taking obvious and positive steps to eradicate the cancer of corruption in their own jurisdiction," said Judge Andrew Macrae in delivering the sentences.
He said that he discounted the jail terms the men could have received due to factors including their health, ages and previous good character.
Prosecutors said Hui enjoyed an extravagant standard of living that far outstripped his official salary. He was also found guilty on charges relating to the use of luxury apartments rent-free and accepting unsecured loans.
Hui, who is married, admitted spending at least HK$7 million on a mistress in Shanghai, for whom he bought properties and made investments, according to local media reports. He also bought her bags, watches and other presents.
He was ordered to pay a fine of HK$11.182 million - the sum of one of the payments he was found guilty of receiving.
Kwok was fined HK$500,000 and disqualified from any company directorship for five years after resigning from Sun Hung Kai on Friday.
One of his lawyers, Lawrence Lok, told reporters that Kwok plans to appeal.
"Members of the public have had a perception of business-government collusion for some time," said political analyst Sonny Lo of the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
"This case proves that such public perception has some validity."