Hong Kong property mogul jailed for bribery

Hong Kong property developer Thomas Kwok and former official Rafael Hui have been jailed for corruption after a high-profile bribery trial. Laura French reports

Hong Kong's extremely valuable property market has come under scrutiny in recent years. 

Thomas Kwok, former co-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties – one of Hong Kong’s biggest property developers – was sentenced to five years after being convicted of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. He was cleared of two other charges.

Kwok, one of the wealthiest people in Asia, was convicted for giving Hui a total of HK$8.5m in return for government information. Total payments investigated in the seven-month trial came to HK$34m, The Guardian reported. His brother Raymond Kwok also faced charges but was cleared of all four.

The property tycoon, who is appealing the charge, was initially sentenced to six years but the length was cut by a year on account of good character. The maximum penalty for the offence is seven years.

Judge Andrew Macrae said the property tycoon was “at heart a good man, and a sincere one, whose work and altruism has touched the lives of very many people”, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Hui didn’t get off so lightly. The former chief secretary – the second most powerful person in government – faces a prison sentence of seven and a half years, after being convicted of five charges.

Macrae said Hui was “one of the instigators as well as beneficiaries” of the bribes. The judge added that his extravagant spending as heard in evidence at the trial – including a mistress and a racehorse – “at times raised [Macrae’s] eyebrows”.

The payments were reportedly made just before Hui stepped up to the position of deputy leader in 2005. They were arranged through the use of intermediaries Francis Kwan, former non-executive director at an investment firm, and Thomas Chan, a former executive at Sun Hung Kai Properties. The pair were jailed for five and six years respectively, each on account of two charges.

The case indicates the strong links that exist between Hong Kong’s government and its property developers. It sparked widespread attention in a country where wealthy magnates involved in corruption conspiracies have been known to get let off the hook in the past.