Ho: ‘No knowledge about outsourcing of services’
Former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng said yesterday he has no knowledge of the ten shell companies - claimed by prosecutors to be related to him - using the 16th floor of the ‘Hotline’ building in NAPE for their operations.
The bribery trial of the former official continued yesterday at the Court of Final Appeal but the hearing was called to a halt at noon due to the unstable health of the ex-official.
During yesterday’s session, prosecutors attempted to prove that Mr. Ho was using the Public Prosecutor’s coffers to rent commercial units in the ‘Hotline’ building for the illicit operations of shell companies involving some MOP3.3 million for nine years’ tenure.
Denying the accusation, the ex-top prosecutor said that he had not signed any contracts directly appointing any of these shell companies to provide microform services, adding that he had never visited the units in question in the past decade.
“I know about the rent [of those units] but I don’t know about their exact usage,” said the former Prosecutor-general.
In order to prove the connection between Mr. Ho and the ten shell companies on the 16th floor, Prosecutor Kuok Un Man presented a printed CCTV image showing Mr. Ho’s brother, Ho Chio Shun, who is accused of founding the shell companies, present at the location in 2014. The image also shows other defendants in the case, including the brother-in-law of Mr. Ho and his driver, appearing at the location.
In addition, the prosecutor presented phone call records revealing Ho Chio Shun had phoned Ho’s mobile on the same day by landline from one of the alleged companies.
But the former top official did not acknowledge to whom the phone number belonged, stating he was unaware that his brother had visited the floor previously or what his brother was doing in the building.
The former chief official also questioned whether the prosecutors had solid evidence proving his visits to the units such as by a CCTV record.
Another prosecutor, Chan Chi Keng, queried why his brother, who is unrelated to the Prosecutor’s Office, would visit a place that is related to the Office in the absence of the former official.
Sauna and supper together
On the other hand, the accusations stated the ex-Prosecutor general had approved the increase of rents for one of the units, pointing out that the official had a close relationship with one of the owners of the rented units named Fong Bin.
The former top prosecutor claimed at first that he did not know about the owners of the units but later admitted he knew one surnamed Fong.
“Yes, I know him but we just had a very ordinary relationship, we aren’t close,” Ho claimed.
Following the denial, prosecutor Kuok presented another CCTV record showing the former Prosecutor-general, Fong and another defendant in the case, Mak Im Tai, present at a sauna, claiming the trio even had supper until two in the morning.
Mr. Ho explained that it was Mak’s idea to ask Fong to accompany them, claiming this can be proved from phone records.
The prosecutors later cited more documents consisting of a list of named persons attending two personal family events of the former official, saying Fong as well as other accused associates were on the list. In addition, the list for the 90th birthday banquet of Mr. Ho’s father shows several defendants in the case were sitting on the same table as Fong.
According to prosecutor Kuok, the list of names was found in the personal computers of the brother of Mr. Ho’s subordinate and his nephew.
The ex-official refuted that the Fong on the list for the family gathering was the same person as the unit owner as the two Fongs had different Chinese characters for their given names despite the same pronunciation.
“I never saw this list,” stated the former top official, adding that the Fong the prosecutors were talking about – the unit owner – was not present during his father’s birthday celebration, saying the banquet was not held in Macau.
Meanwhile, Justice Sam Hou Fai, President of the top court, presented the allegations of Mr. Ho outsourcing 930 projects, many of which, in fact, did not provide any services in the end. It is believed that the former official approved the projects for the shell companies that he and his associates had created.
The accusation states that some 1,300 projects were taken by Ho’s syndicates, of which 930 were directly approved by Mr. Ho whilst the rest were examined by either former office chief Lai Kin Ian or others.
The former Prosecutor-general claimed he had never appointed any particular companies to provide services for the Office, noting that it is unnecessary and impossible for him to directly make such appointments.
He explained that many stages and complicated procedures are required for the approval of outsourcing, adding a contract with a contractor would be terminated whenever there was a complaint.
Not explaining the reason why some awarded companies failed to provide services in the end, Mr. Ho claimed he could not remember all the projects that he had approved.
The trial resumes on Friday.