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May 10, 2017

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Kwok and Hui appealing convictions

A former senior Hong Kong official and a billionaire property tycoon arrived in court yesterday to appeal against a corruption charge more than two years after they were jailed in one of the city’s most high profile corruption cases.

Rafael Hui, head of the Hong Kong government civil service from 2005 to 2007, was sentenced in December 2014 to seven-and-a-half years imprisonment for charges which included misconduct in public office.

The former co-chairman of Hong Kong-listed developer Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd, Thomas Kwok, was jailed for five years. Two other former Sun Hung Kai executives, Thomas Chan and Francis Kwan, were also jailed.

Following an initial unsuccessful appeal against their convictions, they were finally granted leave last July to contest one specific charge, of “conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office.”

“I feel my mind is at peace and I sleep well,” said Kwok.

The landmark trial tarnished Hong Kong’s reputation for clean and efficient governance — exposing the cozy relationship between powerful tycoons and officials in the city, with Sun Hung Kai paying Hui millions of Hong Kong dollars in bribes, indirectly through Chan and Kwan, to gain government favor.

The current appeal argues the payments were made before Hui took public office and that “being or remaining favorably disposed to another person is not a sufficient act to constitute that element of the offence.”

If cleared of the charge, Kwok, who is currently on bail, would walk free, more than two years before his full five-year term ends, according to Kwok’s lawyer Clare Montgomery, though Hui would still have to serve out time for other charges.

The hearing concludes today with a decision from the five judges of the Court of Final Appeal expected soon afterwards.


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