Former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng again denied having read the names or the amounts of the signed and authorised contracts allegedly awarded to front companies created by his associates, stating he trusted that his subordinates followed all legal proceedings before presenting the contracts to him.
The bribery trial of the former official continued on Friday at the Court of Final Appeal, after health issues led to the session’s suspension on December 14. The trial focused mainly on cleaning and disinfection contracts awarded by the Prosecutor General's Office between 2004 and 2014.
According to the accusation, Mr. Ho’s alleged criminal association absconded around MOP15 million (US$1.8 million) from a total amount of MOP29.6 million, in 120 cleaning contracts.
Despite some responses, the prosecution, Mr. Ho and his defense lawyers had no remarks to make, with the session acting as a reading marathon of the first of 24 sets of contracts presented in the official charges, and only one-tenth of all 1,300 adjudicated contracts mentioned in the accusations.
At the beginning of the session, Mr. Ho stated that despite his health, he would do everything in his power to cooperate with the court, and that he wouldn’t do any “self-harm” while in jail.
After a medical check-up on December 15, concerns were raised regarding the former prosecutor’s health on Friday, with Mr. Ho and his lawyer stating to the press he was suffering from “heart and head” health related issues.
Friday’s session was also interrupted for one hour after Mr. Ho’s lawyer, Leong Weng Pun, claimed some information was missing from the accusation documents provided by the court to the defense, an omission Justice Sam Hou Fai, President of the top court, verified.
However the presiding judge considered the defense had enough time to realize the omission of some of the data from the initial accusation documents, and suggested this could be a delaying tactic. Nevertheless, Sam Hou Fai conceded one hour for the defense to confide with its client.
With most of the session focusing on the cleaning and disinfection contracts allegedly awarded to the criminal association the accusation says Mr. Ho founded, more information was provided on how the supposed system of illegally awarded contracts worked.
The contracts referred mainly to cleaning services provided in diverse locations such as at the Prosecutor General's Office, and in buildings connected to the Prosecutor General's Office, like the Hotline Building resting area, Dynasty Plaza building, the Chun Fuc Industrial Building and the Judiciary Council of Macau.
According to the accusation, with the help of associates Lai Kin Ian and Chan Ka Fai and through his employees, the former prosecutor created proposals for the contracts in order to allow the direct adjudication to some of the 10 front companies created in the name of Mr. Ho’s associates and their spouses.
The alleged criminal association would then award contracts with an equal or inferior value for a half-year period. Also, in order to avoid legal procedures for public tenders, it would divide contracts above MOP500,000 into separate contracts and proposals, so as to avoid a written consultation of the proposal.
All cleaning contracts were awarded to two alleged front companies, Hoi Chin (Macau) Servico and Chun Hang (Macau) Servico, both registered in the name of one Iou Sio Chan, the wife of one of Mr. Ho’s alleged associates, and businessman Mak Im Tai.
The front company, which didn’t possess any human or technical resources, would then hire another company as a sub-contractor, without informing the Prosecutor’s Office, with the hired company providing any actual services for an amount inferior to the one the front company presented to the Prosecutor’s Office.
In the case of the mentioned cleaning and disinfection services, the sub-concessions were all awarded to Companhia de Seguranca de Administracao de Popriedades Chong Hap, Limitada/Companhia de Grupo Chong Hap, Limitada.
The front company would then present the Prosecutor’s Office with a price 10 per cent to 30 per cent higher than the amount paid to the sub-contracted company, or an amount 8 per cent to 50 per cent higher than market price, with Mr. Ho’s alleged criminal association keeping the difference.
The difference between the original contract amounts and the sub-contracted amounts was sometimes as high as MOP700,000 for monthly payments over a period of almost 10 years.
Signed and delivered
The trial prosecutors presented contract documents, which the former top official approved, changing cleaning services to Chun Hang company, enquiring that if the company was deemed fit for the service, then why the need to sub-contract to a second company.
In his defense, the former prosecutor stated during his role he had “hundreds of contracts” to oversee, sometimes only signing the first page of the presented contract and the remaining pages with a quick simple signature.
“As Prosecutor general I will not check by detail every cleaning contract presented to me. The price amount, if their equipment was modern and if the cleaning really happened (…) I trusted that my subordinates had made all legal proceedings to evaluate the companies,” stated Mr. Ho.
The former top official also stated he had chosen to divulge the contract adjudications through internal notice instead of through the Official Gazette.
The trial will continue today, with sessions then stopping for judicial break over Christmas and restarting on January 6.