Billionaire HK property tycoons charged in bribery case

Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:06am EDT
 
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By Alex Frew McMillan and Twinnie Siu

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Thomas and Raymond Kwok, the billionaire co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties, and Rafael Hui, Hong Kong's former No.2 public official, were charged Friday in a bribery investigation surrounding Asia's largest developer.

The Sun Hung Kai probe, Hong Kong's biggest corruption case since its anti-graft agency was formed nearly 40 years ago, involves one of Asia's most powerful families and the world's second-largest property company with a market capitalization of $32 billion.

The charges involve payments and unsecured loans of more than $4 million and come amid other investigations of government officials and a turbulent political transition that has set off waves of protests from Hong Kong citizens angry about a host of issues including cronyism and cozy ties between government officials and the city's tycoons.

Friday's charges came a day after the anti-graft agency arrested Hong Kong's development secretary on suspicion of corruption, dealing a fresh blow to the city's new leader, Leung Chun-ying.

Two others have also been charged in the Sun Hung Kai case. Thomas Chan, the Sun Hung Kai board member in charge of land purchases, and Francis Kwan, a former banker, were charged by the city's Independent Commission Against Corruption. Kwan is a former chief operation officer of the Hong Kong Futures Exchange.

A total of eight charges were filed against the five men, who appeared before a Hong Kong judge on Friday and said they understood the charges, including conspiracy to offer advantages to a public servant and misconduct in public office.

Hui, who was calm throughout the half-hour proceeding, was named in each of the eight charges in connection with alleged payments and unsecured loans totaling about HK$34 million ($4.38 million).

Raymond Kwok delivered a statement on the courthouse steps, saying "I firmly believe I haven't done anything wrong. The Hong Kong judicial system is very fair. I will do my best to defend myself against those accusations. My goal is to prove my innocence."   Continued...

 
Thomas Kwok, co-chairman of Hong Kong developer Sun Hung Kai Properties, arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) headquarters in Hong Kong July 13, 2012. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu