A recent local court decision to appoint a medical team from Macau to co-ordinate with a hospital in Hong Kong to evaluate whether or not real-estate tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung’s health allows him to stand trial in a high-profile graft case has been abruptly axed.
Health Bureau (SSM) Vice Director Cheang Seng Ip told reportersSunday that doctors from Macau are not allowed to practise medicine in Hong Kong due to a different recognition system.
“Hong Kong has its own medical laws and regulations and we need to respect that,” Cheang was quoted by The Macau Post Daily as saying, declining to say who cancelled the court decision.
“It’s not like we can just carry out health checks in Hong Kong if we want to,” Cheang added.
Lau is one of eight defendants in the graft trial.
According to the trial of former policy secretary Ao Man Long 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 to build luxury residential estate La Scala.
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 is 30 years.
According to his previous trials, Ao amassed at least 800 million patacas in bribes and other ill-gotten gains.
Lau has steadfastly denied the allegations. The government has since invalidated the La Scala deal. The project has meanwhile been mothballed.
The hearing was supposed to begin in September last year but was postponed until January after the trial’s then presiding judge Alice Costa called in sick on the day of the trial. Since then, the date has been pushed back twice since Lau used poor health as a reason for not being able to come to Macau to attend the trial.
During the latest hearing at the Court of First Instance (TJB) last month, newly appointed Presiding Judge Mario Augusto Silvestre accepted a suggestion by Assistant Public Prosecutor-General Paulo Martins Chan to form a team of medical professionals from Macau to travel to Hong Kong to check the state of Lau’s health. Lau’s lawyer agreed with the suggestion.
Silvestre then postponed the next hearing to June 17.
Meanwhile, a source of Macau’s legal fraternity told The Macau Post Daily that the idea of sending a medical team to Hong Kong was a “non-starter” from the beginning.
“You cannot just send a team of doctors to another jurisdiction to carry out a health check there, even a court can’t order something like that,” the source said on condition not to be named, adding that Macau’s Judiciary could, however, ask its Hong Kong counterpart to appoint a team of Hong Kong doctors to check whether the accused is fit to stand trial in Macau.(macaunews)