Macau says death of Customs chief a case of suicide

Before her death, Ms Lai Man Wa was working on a negotiation with officials from China over an expansion of Macau's maritime boundary.
Before her death, Ms Lai Man Wa was working on a negotiation with officials from China over an expansion of Macau's maritime boundary.PHOTO: SINA WEIBO

Police say her wrists, neck were slashed, and she had taken sleeping pills

HONG KONG • The Macau authorities have classified the death of the city's first woman Customs chief as suicide, with the police saying she had slash wounds to both her wrists and her neck, swallowed sleeping pills and had a plastic bag over her head, media reported yesterday.

Rumours went rife after Ms Lai Man Wa's body was found in a public toilet last Friday, as her death came just days after Macau's top gaming regulator stepped down after 18 years in charge.

Her death also followed the suicide of an official from the city's anti-corruption bureau, who killed himself by jumping off a building two weeks earlier, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) said.

But the police said last Saturday that they had not found any criminal or homicide elements in Ms Lai's case, and further investigation was needed to ascertain the reason for her suicide, Macau Daily News reported yesterday.

Details of how the 56-year-old died deepened the sense of shock in the city and prompted Macau's secretary for security, Mr Wong Sio Chak, to call a special meeting of Customs staff to implement "emergency measures" to cope with what were described as "current matters being handled by the department", the SCMP said.

Before her suicide, Ms Lai was working closely with Macau Chief Executive, Dr Fernando Chui Sai On, in an ongoing negotiation with officials from China over a historic expansion of the former Portuguese enclave's maritime boundary.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, visiting Macau in December last year, said that the central government and the city had begun talks to ensure the "delimitation" of maritime sovereignty.

Macau does not have jurisdiction over all of its surrounding waters, and Ms Lai said last year that an expansion of Macau's marine jurisdiction could benefit its economy.

Dr Chui's Cabinet has come under great pressure as Beijing urges Macau, a gaming city, to diversify its economy, of which the maritime plan is a key plank.

Ms Lai joined the Public Security Force of Macau in 1984 and worked for the marine police the following year. Since March 1999, she had been given various leadership roles, including deputy director of the Marine Police Bureau and deputy director-general of Customs, according to the SCMP.

She was appointed Customs chief in December last year when Dr Chui staged an unprecedented major reshuffle of his Cabinet in a bid to meet challenges laid down by Mr Xi to clean up the gaming industry and diversify its economy.

Dr Chui said Ms Lai had made "tremendous contributions" to Macau during her three-decade-long service in the public sector, stressing that she was not a target of any corruption probes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2015, with the headline 'Macau says death of Customs chief a case of suicide'. Print Edition | Subscribe