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Hong Kong tycoon, former top official sentenced in corruption trial


A billionaire who jointly controlled Asia’s biggest property development company and a man who was once Hong Kong’s second-ranked official were sentenced to prison for conspiracy to commit misconduct in one of the city’s most significant corruption trials. Tycoon Thomas Kwok received a five year sentence Tuesday, and former chief secretary Rafael Hui got seven and a half years, after having been found guilty by a Hong Kong high court jury last week. Kwok was also ordered to pay a $64,453 fine and $1.6 million in costs to the prosecution, while Hui was ordered to pay the Hong Kong government $1.4 million, equivalent to the amount of bribes taken. The main question during their trial was whether Kwok and his younger brother, Raymond Kwok, had bought the allegiance of Hui when he was in public office, in offenses spanning nearly a decade. The brothers, ranked 86th on the 2014 Forbes list of the world’s richest people, were co-chairs of the developer giant Sun Hung Kai, which is responsible for many of Hong Kong’s most iconic skyscrapers. The jury found the older Kwok, 63, guilty of the charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct, for having bribed Hui between 2005 and 2007. Raymond Kwok was cleared of all charges. In Hong Kong, the maximum penalty for misconduct and conspiracy for misconduct is seven years in prison and an unlimited fine. In passing sentence, Judge Andrew Macrae said he had discounted a year of imprisonment from Kwok’s sentence to reflect his philanthropic work. Kwok is also prohibited from serving as director of a company for five years. Last week, he resigned from his position at Sun Hung Kai, and his son, Adam Kwok, was named the company’s next executive director. In a sentencing hearing Monday, Kwok’s lawyer Clare Montgomery said her client was a man of good character with no previous convictions. She added that the conspiracy to commit misconduct charge related only to a short period of time and the court could not say whether or not he was the leader of that conspiracy. Montgomery also added that imprisonment would be a burden on his wife and his 86-year-old mother, who is in poor health. Ex-city official convicted Hui, 66, is the highest-ranking former official to be tried in Hong Kong. The court looked into whether Hui received monetary and housing benefits from the Kwoks in return for government decisions favorable to the company. The charges related to accepting rent-free apartments, unsecured loans and a consultancy agreement with the property company. The jury found him guilty on three counts of misconduct in a public office, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and conspiracy to offer an advantage to a public servant. Judge Macrae said that, as the instigator of the corruption, Hui should receive the harsher sentence. The judge said that, had he not committed the offending, Hui may have been the finest chief secretary in the territory’s recent history. He said the offending did nothing to dispel the perception in Hong Kong that government and business leaders were “cozying up.” The jury also found Thomas Chan, who was responsible for land acquisition at the company and Francis Kwan, a former Hong Kong Stock Exchange official, guilty of making a series of payments to Hui. During the sentencing hearing yesterday, Hui’s defence lawyer Edwin Choy read out a mitigation letter from the former chief executive of Hong Kong, Donald Tsang. In his letter, Tsang said: “I was devastated when the jury found him guilty.” The former leader of Hong Kong described Hui as an “extraordinary” and “outstanding person”. He also called on the judge to take into account Hui’s contribution to the city’s economy, including his role in protecting Hong Kong during the Asian financial crisis in 1997. The case caused a media frenzy in the city, where real estate is a local obsession. Sun Hung Kai, which helped to build some of the tallest buildings in the city’s celebrated skyline, contributed to the Kwok brothers’ estimated $18.3 billion fortune. Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, is considered to be one of the world’s least corrupt territories. According to Transparency International’s 2013 Corruptions Perceptions Index, Hong Kong is the 15th least corrupt territory in the world — with the United States, by comparison, ranked 19th.

 

 

 

 

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