HONG KONG, March 14 Hong Kong billionaire Joseph
Lau, the head of Chinese Estates Holdings, was found
guilty of corruption in a land deal in Asia's gambling capital
of Macau on Friday and sentenced to five years in jail, a court
official in Macau said.
A second high-profile tycoon, Steven Lo, chairman of the
South China Football Club and movie-and-music entertainment
group BMA Investment, was found guilty of the same bribery and
money laundering charges, and handed the same sentence.
Lau, chairman and CEO of Chinese Estates, and Lo were
charged with offering a HK$20 million ($2.6 million) bribe to a
former Macau government official, in a move to secure land near
Macau's Las Vegas style Cotai strip.
Hong Kong television reported that the two men would appeal
RTHK said that in the absence of an extradition treaty
between Hong Kong and Macau, the pair would escape imprisonment
unless they visited the enclave. The men did not attend Friday's
hearing in Macau.
The Macau official at the centre of the case, Ao Man-long,
was Macau's secretary for transport and public works and the
most senior government figure ever arrested by Macau's
anti-graft agency. He is serving 28-1/2 years in jail for
accepting bribes to speed approval of projects.
Hong Kong's tight-knit business community was captivated
last year by the arrests in March of the billionaire Kwok
brothers who run Asia's largest developer, Sun Hung Kai
Lau and Lo's sentencing comes at a time when citizens in
both Macau and Hong Kong are expressing anger over soaring
property prices and tight ties between government and business.
Lau, with a fortune of $6.5 billion according to Forbes, is
known as being a serious collector of art and red wine, and he
has invested heavily in London property. The divorced tycoon's
love life is a staple of Hong Kong's tabloids, with Lau linked
to a string of former Miss Hong Kongs.
Prior to the sentencing, Chinese Estates was in the process
of building a multi-tower luxury development on the site, called
La Scala, after the Milan opera house.
Shares in Chinese Estates were suspended on Friday afternoon
ahead of the ruling. The stock has fallen 18 percent this year,
compared with an 8 percent drop in the benchmark Hang Seng