A medical team will be appointed to go to Hong Kong to evaluate 61-year-old Hong Kong real estate tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung’s health after the graft trial defendant used illness as a reason for his absence in a local court for a second time Monday, delaying the hearing date to June 17.
Presiding Judge Mário Augusto Silvestre announced the decision during a hearing in the Court of First Instance (TJB) Monday after Assistant Prosecutor Paulo Martins Chan argued that Lau’s illness – diabetes – as disclosed in the previous hearing in January, was common among city dwellers of the same age and was not so severe that it should prevent Lau from travelling to Macau.
The hearing of the bribery case related to jailed former policy secretary Ao Man Long was supposed to be held on September 17, but was postponed until January because the then- presiding judge Alice Costa called in sick.
Paulo Chan was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying that the medical certificate presented yesterday by Lau’s lawyer Leong Weng Pun was “very vague”, lacked details and the explanation for his absence was unreasonable, suggesting that the court should either publish a judicial notice, obtain a detailed report of Lau’s health from a public hospital in Hong Kong or appoint a team of local doctors to travel to Hong Kong to evaluate Lau’s health, so that the hearing can finally start.
Chan also pointed out that despite the medical certificate, Lau was seen in Hong Kong media reports in December to be “very active in his social circle and looking very healthy”.
Leong said he agreed with the prosecutor’s suggestions because Lau “really wanted to attend the hearing but unfortunately the doctor does not recommend it”, telling reporters later outside the courtroom that “they [Lau and his legal team] had to respect the doctor’s advice”.
Silvestre said a team of local doctors would be set up to go to Hong Kong to evaluate Lau’s health and hand in a report before the next hearing, which Silvestre has set for June 17.
Just two defendants – Lau’s business partner Steven Lo Kit-sing and businessman Fong Chun Yau, both from Hong Kong, turned up for the hearing yesterday. Ao was not in court as a witness.
According to Ao’s trial last May, Lau’s company allegedly bribed Ao with HK$20 million in 2006 to get ownership rights to five plots of land located opposite the airport in Taipa. Lo allegedly assisted in the bribery. Lau has publicly denied the graft allegations.
The site measured 79,000 square metres in total and was sold by the government to Lau’s Moon Ocean Development Company for HK$1.3 billion to build luxury residential development La Scala. Moon Ocean is a subsidiary fully owned by Hong Kong-listed Chinese Estate Holdings, headed by Lau.
The government has meanwhile invalidated the land deal.
Chinese Estate Holdings has said it may appeal the government’s decision. The La Scala project has been mothballed. A number of La Scala flats have reportedly been presold to buyers in Hong Kong.
Ao has been serving a 29-year jail term for corruption, money laundering, abuse of power and a string of other crimes since his arrest in December 2006. Macau’s maximum prison term amounts to 30 years.
According to his previous trials, Ao amassed at least 800 million patacas in bribes and other ill-gotten gains.(macaunews)