The Macau government has confirmed that it has received a request on behalf of ex-secretary for transport and public works Ao Man Long to serve the remainder of his 29-year prison sentence in Portugal, the Portuguese-language daily Hoje Macau (“Today Macau”) reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, the office of Secretary for Administration and Justice André Cheong Weng Chon confirmed to the newspaper that it has received the request “from the Portuguese authorities”, and that the request was being handled in line with “legal procedures”.
Ao is serving two concurrent jail sentences totalling 29 years after two trials, the first in 2008 and the second in 2012, for a raft of crimes such as bribe-taking and money laundering. He has been behind bars since December 2006 when he was arrested by the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) which at that time said that his ill-gotten gains amounted to over MOP 800 million (US$100 million).
According to Macau’s Penal Code, the maximum prison term amounts to 30 years. Ao, 63, is a local-born Chinese reportedly holding Portuguese nationality.
The Hoje Macau report noted that according to a 1999 agreement between Portugal and Macau, Portuguese nationals serving a jail term in Macau may ask the local authorities to be transferred to a penitentiary in Portugal to serve out their term there.
The report points out that if the local government approves the request, the matter would be transferred to the central government that from the Chinese side would have the final word on the matter. However, ultimately, Ao’s transfer to a jail in Portugal could only go ahead if Macau, Beijing and Lisbon green-light the request, according to the report, which underlines that the three authorities’ final decision on the matter cannot be appealed.
A local lawyer, who asked not to be named, pointed out that Ao’s “unlikely” transfer from Macau to a prison in Portugal would, however, not be the first. “It happened before, but only very rarely,” the lawyer said, adding he doubted whether the Chinese side would recognise Ao’s presumed status as a Portuguese national since he’s a Macau-born Chinese and former principal official of the local government.
Unlike Portugal, China – like many other countries – does not recognise its citizens’ dual nationality. Ao, whose wife Camila Chan Meng Ieng was a co-defendant in the case and has vanished since his arrest in 2006, is serving time in a high-security section of Macau’s prison in Coloane.