April 17, 2012 / 5:53 AM / in 6 years

Hong Kong tycoons named in Macau corruption trial

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Two Hong Kong tycoons have been named in a Macau corruption trial involving a jailed former government official, dealing a further blow to the region’s reputation after a series of scandals that have rocked the financial centre of Hong Kong.

Joseph Lau, chairman of property developer Chinese Estates Holdings (0127.HK), and the chairman of BMA Investment and South China Football Club, Steven Lo, were mentioned in the trial of Ao Man-long, Macau’s former secretary for transport and public works.

Ao, who is already serving a 28-year jail term for taking bribes, faced additional charges on Monday of receiving bribes and money laundering, according to a court statement.

A company in which Lau and Lo are invested was among three bidders that submitted tenders in 2004 for five parcels of land opposite Macau’s airport, Macau’s Court of Final Appeal heard.

An assessment committee had found that none of the tenders met requirements. Lau and Lo’s company, which was not named, won the tender after Ao became involved and received a bribe of HK$20 million ($2.6 million), the prosecution said.

There was no suggestion in the trial of wrongdoing on the part of Lau and Lo.

In March 2011, Chinese Estates bought the remaining 29.99 percent stake it did not hold in Moon Ocean, the owner of a leasehold interest in land near Macau’s airport, the company’s interim report showed.

Chinese Estates plans to develop the site in Macau into a high-end residential project with a total residential gross floor area of about 5.79 million square feet.

“Ao was the only person being charged in the trial yesterday and the case will be heard again tomorrow,” a Macau government official told Reuters on Tuesday.

Trading in Chinese Estates shares was suspended on Tuesday. The company declined to comment on the Macau case. Lo was not immediately available for comment.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Portugal handed back Macau, now the world’s largest gaming destination on the other side of the Pearl Estuary to Hong Kong, to China two years later.

The Macau case comes less than a month after Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption arrested the co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties (0016.HK), the city’s largest developer in terms of market value, on suspicion of corruption.

No charges have been laid against billionaire brothers Raymond and Thomas Kwok.

Hong Kong’s leadership race was also marred by scandals, which have sparked anger over the tight links between tycoons and the city’s leaders.

Reporting by Alison Leung; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Nick Macfie

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