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

Thomas Kwok arriving at the high court in Hong Kong on May 8, 2014.
Thomas Kwok arriving at the high court in Hong Kong on May 8, 2014.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (AFP) - Hong Kong property tycoon Thomas Kwok and ex-deputy leader Rafael Hui saw their appeal bids against graft convictions rejected Tuesday (Feb 16) 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 Monday (Feb 15) said: "The appeals against conviction of Rafael Hui, Thomas Kwok, Thomas Chan and Francis Kwan are dismissed."

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 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.

Thomas Kwok's son Adam said the rejection of the appeal was "disappointing", adding he hoped the case would be brought to the Court of Final Appeal.

"I personally believe in my heart... that my father is innocent and that this is an unjust case," he said outside court.

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

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

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.

Monday's (Feb 15) full judgement rejected those arguments.

Appeal court judge Michael Lunn said in the document that it was "not necessary" for the prosecution to prove the accused had agreed on a specific act of misconduct by Hui.

Lunn added that the evidence pointed to the fact that Hui's statement was "voluntarily made" and did not need to have been excluded by the original trial judge.

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.