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Hong Kong tycoon and ex-deputy leader lose graft appeal bid

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 - 11:35

[HONG KONG] Hong Kong property tycoon Thomas Kwok and ex-deputy leader Rafael Hui saw their appeal bids against graft convictions rejected Tuesday as they faced serving out their jail time.

The pair were found guilty of corruption in 2014 after a blockbuster trial over a cash for favours scandal.

Francis Kwan and Thomas Chan, sentenced to five and six years respectively for acting as middlemen for the payments, also saw their appeals fail.

A written judgement to the court of appeal on Monday said: "The appeals against conviction of Rafael Hui, Thomas Kwok, Thomas Chan and Francis Kwan are dismissed," without giving further detail.

A frail-looking Hui and grey-haired Kwok were grim-faced during the hearing, which lasted less than a minute.

Former chief secretary Hui, 68, was the highest-ranking official in Hong Kong's history to be found guilty of taking bribes.

The seven-month trial centred around a total of HK$34 million (S$6.11 million) in handouts, which the prosecution said were made to Hui by Kwok and his billionaire brother Raymond, to be their "eyes and ears" in government.

Hui was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in December 2014, while 64-year-old Kwok - who was joint chairman of Hong Kong's biggest property company, Sun Hung Kai - was sentenced to five years.

The case shocked the city and deepened anger over cosy ties between officialdom and big business.

During the appeal case, lawyer Edwin Choy challenged the legitimacy of an interview between the city's graftbusters and Hui three years before he was arrested.

Choy argued Hui had not been put under caution by investigators before giving statements that could later become formal evidence.

Clare Montgomery, representing Kwok, said the court failed to identify any specific advantage that Kwok had received after paying Hui.

Hui, Kwok, Kwan and Chan are all serving out their sentences in the maximum security Stanley Prison.

Thomas Kwok's brother Raymond Kwok was cleared of all charges at last year's trial.

Hong Kong has been seen as relatively graft-free. But new cases in the semi-autonomous Chinese city have fuelled public suspicions over links between authorities and business leaders.

In a separate high-profile corruption case, former leader Donald Tsang, who ended his term in disgrace after accepting favours from tycoons, has been charged with misconduct and will face trial next year.

Hui was Tsang's chief secretary from 2005 to 2007.

Tsang, 71, is the highest-ranking Hong Kong official to face a corruption trial.

He pleaded not guilty to two misconduct charges in December.

The charges relate to Tsang's failure to disclose his plans to lease a luxury flat in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen which was owned by a major investor in a broadcaster seeking a licence from the Hong Kong government.

AFP

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