Secretary for Administration and Justice Sonia Chan Hoi Fan said Wednesday that the local government would do its best to ink a mutual legal assistance agreement with its Hong Kong counterpart this year.
Asked by reporters as to whether the agreement will be applied to fugitives fleeing justice from either jurisdiction whose cases predate it, Chan said that the accord has not been finalised and some legal concepts were still under discussion between the two sides.
The policy secretary made the remarks at the Identification Services Bureau (DSI) after inspecting the bureau’s services and facilities. The bureau is part of Chan’s portfolio.
Asked by reporters about the latest developments concerning the mutual legal assistance agreement, Chan said that both governments were still working on it.
According to previous media reports, once the pact is signed the problem of fugitives taking refuge in one of the two special administrative regions to avoid punishment in the other will finally be addressed.
Hong Kong media reported earlier the month that the pact will possibly have retroactive effect.
Retroactivity means that the pact would cover cases predating its coming into force thus fugitives who take refuge in one city to avoid punishment in the other could be sent back to be brought to justice.
Asked by reporters as to whether the agreement would be applied to cases predating it and whether it would include the high-profile court case involving Hong Kong tycoons Joseph Lau Luen-hung and Steven Lo Kit-sing, Chan merely said that it was “not convenient for the local government to announce partial details of the agreement.”
Both Lau and Lo were convicted in absentia by a local court to five years and three months each in March for allegedly paying a total of HK$20 million to Macau’s then secretary for transport and public works Ao Man Long who is now serving a 29-year prison sentence for corruption, abuse of power, money laundering and other crimes.
Lau at that time was building a luxury residential development near Macau’s airport. Lo was assisting Lau in getting the project off the ground. The project has been suspended and the government has declared its land lease null and void. Both Lau and Lo have said they are innocent.
“We [the two governments] are still discussing details about the agreements…such as legal concepts … Hong Kong and Macau have different legal systems,” Chan said, adding that the local government would do its best to have the agreement signed within the year. (macaunews/macaupost)