Thomas Kwok, chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Rafael Hui Si-yan, former Government number two, and two businessmen have been found guilty and sentenced to jail terms in Hong Kong’s HK$34 million (US$4.3 million) graft “trial of the century”.

The convictions arise out of charges for eight offences, including misconduct in public office at common law, conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office at common law, and conspiracy to offer advantages to a public servant in violation of section 4(1)(a) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance and section 159A of the Crimes Ordinance.

The verdicts, delivered by the jury on Friday 19 December, and sentences, handed down by Mr Justice Andrew Macrae on 23 December, are as follows:

Rafael Hui (former Chief Secretary of Hong Kong, former Managing Director of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority (MPFA) and former non-official member of the Executive Council):

  • Guilty on three counts of misconduct in public office, one count of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and one count of conspiracy to offer an advantage to a public servant
  • Sentenced to a seven and a half year jail term and a HK$11.18 million fine (equivalent to the bribe he was found guilty of taking)

Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong (Joint Chairman and Managing Director of Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited – now resigned):

  • Guilty on one count of conspiracy for Hui to wilfully misconduct himself in the course of his public office
  • Sentenced to a five year jail term and HK$500,000 fine

Thomas Chan Kui-yuen (Executive Director of Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited – now resigned):

  • Guilty on one count of conspiracy for Hui to wilfully misconduct himself in the course of his public office and one count of conspiracy to offer an advantage to a public servant
  • Sentenced to a six year jail term and HK$500,000 fine

Francis Kwan Hung-seng (businessman):

  • Guilty on one count of conspiracy for Hui to wilfully misconduct himself in the course of his public office and one count of conspiracy to offer an advantage to a public servant
  • Sentenced to a five year jail term

Raymond Kwok Ping-luen (Joint Chairman and Managing Director of Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited):

  • Acquitted on all counts

Background

Following their arrest in March 2012, the defendants were formally charged by the ICAC in July 2012. The trial in Hong Kong’s Court of First Instance started in May 2014 and lasted 72 days.

The convictions concern activity between June 2000 and January 2009, when Hui was the Managing Director of MPFA, Chief Secretary for Administration and Chairman of the Steering Committee of the West Kowloon Culture District Project. It was alleged that the Kwok brothers made payments and unsecured loans to Hui in excess of HK$34 million, in return for confidential information used to obtain construction contracts. Hui was also accused of accepting rent-free use of two apartments owned by companies in which Sun Hung Kai holds shares.

The defendants all pleaded “not guilty” but only Raymond Kwok was acquitted. He walks free whilst the other four men embark on lengthy jail terms. The outcome in this case highlights Hong Kong’s tough stance on bribery, and the Department of Justice’s increased willingness to prosecute both passive (demand side) and active (supply side) acts of corruption. These recent high profile prosecutions on the supply side indicate that private individuals who offer bribes are at risk of being prosecuted, not just (typically) their public sector recipients.

For more information, see the ICAC’s press release.