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[HONG KONG] Thomas Kwok, the billionaire former co-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, lost an appeal against a conviction for corrupting a local official.
Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal also dismissed Wednesday appeals by three fellow defendants - including Rafael Hui, the city's chief secretary from 2005 to 2007 - related to a charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.
The 65-year-old Kwok will now return to prison. He had been out on bail since July last year after being fined HK$500,000 (S$88,570) and sentenced to five years' jail in December 2014 for conspiring to corrupt Hui. Sun Hung Kai is Hong Kong's largest property developer by market value.
"The abuse of public trust contemplated by the conspirators was clear," a five-member panel led by Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma wrote in their judgment on the appeal. By agreeing to place himself "in such a compromised state," Hui had "made an agreement which contemplated a continuing act of misconduct whilst he was Chief Secretary," they wrote.
In February, Hong Kong's former chief executive, Donald Tsang, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for misconduct in office in an unrelated case. The cases drew attention to ties between business and political elites in the financial hub.
Kwok was found guilty in 2014 of conspiring to pay HK$8.5 million to Hui from 2005 to 2007 in exchange for favourable treatment for Sun Hung Kai. His younger brother, Raymond Kwok, was cleared of all charges at the same trial and is now the sole chairman of Sun Hung Kai.
"We accept the court's decision and respect it," Thomas Kwok's son Adam, an executive director at Sun Hung Kai, told reporters outside the appeals court. Besides Kwok and Hui, the other appellants were Thomas Chan and Francis Kwan.
The 2014 trial focused on whether secret payments, loans and rent-free accommodation given to Hui from 2000 to 2009 amounted to bribes and misconduct in public office. Prosecutors argued the case unveiled collusion and abuse of office, while the defence lawyers said Hui had an unwritten consultancy contract that had to be concealed due to disputes within the Kwok family.
The appeal was Hong Kong Special Administrative Region v. Kwok Ping-kwong Thomas, Hui Rafael Junior and others, Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.