The repeatedly delayed hearing of the corruption trial in which 61-year-old Hong Kong real-estate tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung and his business partner Steven Lo Kit-sing stand accused of bribing jailed policy secretary Ao Man Longfinally began Monday but without Lau.
However, Lau’s 36-year-old girlfriend attended the hearing, The Macau Post Daily said.
It is the fourth time that Lau has been absent from court since the hearing was supposed to begin in September last year.
Lau’s lawyer Leong Weng Pun previously used his client’s health condition to explain his absence but Leong did not give any reasons for Lau’s absence yesterday.
Lo was present at the hearing and Lau’s girlfriend Ivonne Lui Lai-kwan, who is also an executive director of Lau’s Hong Kong-listed Chinese Estates Holdings Limited, was in the public gallery. Lui did not make any comment when asked whether she would attend the next week’s hearing. Lo didn’t speak during the hearing. His high-profile lawyer, Macau Lawyers Association (AAM) President Jorge Neto Valente, insisted that his client was innocent.
Leong’s request to represent Lau for the hearing in the Court of First Instance (TJB) was approved by Presiding Judge Mario Augusto Silvestre.
The charge sheet read out by Assistant Public Prosecutor-General Paulo Martins Chan accuses Lau and Lo each with one count of bribery and one count of money laundering.
The charge sheet accuses Lau and Lo of bribing Ao with HK$20 million in return for ownership rights to five plots of land near the airport in Taipa.
Since Ao was given a further sentence from his previous graft cases, the government has invalidated the land-lease agreement for the site on the hill, which has already been flattened ready for Lau’s Chinese Estates Holdings to build itsluxury La Scala residence, which meanwhile has been mothballed.
There are a total of eight defendants in the case –Belgian national Luc A. Vriens, Chan Yinglun, Xu Jiangping, Fong Chan Yau, Pedro Chiang alias Lam Wai, Lau, Lo and Camilla Chan Meng Ieng, Ao’s fugitive wife. Only Lo and Fong attended yesterday’s hearing. Chiang and Camilla Chan are wanted by Interpol.
Ao has been in prison since his arrest in December 2006. He is serving a 29-year sentence for corruption, money laundering, abuse of power and other crimes. Graft busters have said his case involves at least 800 million patacas in bribes and other ill-gotten gains.
The trial continues on Monday next week.(macaunews)