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House of Cards

It was the second day of his corruption trial. Former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng denied involvement in a criminal association.

At the second hearing of his trial, former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng denied any criminal association charges and that a residence in Coloane with rent and maintenance paid for by the Public Prosecutor’s Office was for his personal use.
The former top official currently faces 1,970 charges, with allegations of having diverted a total of MOP76 million (US$9.5 million) from the Public Prosecutor’s coffers.
“This is a case of life and death for me (…) I spend most of my waking hours reading the process,” stated the former prosecutor during the hearing.

Boss, Captain, Tai Lou and Sio Choi
Yesterday’s trial session saw the prosecution attempt to show evidence of criminal association with the purpose of earning illicit gains through the granting of public contracts of services and procurements by the Public Prosecutor’s Office since 2000.
According to the accusation, Mr. Ho established a criminal enterprise with his brother, Ho Chio Shun, and brother-in-law as well as other associates.
The alleged association operated from the 16th floor of the ‘Hotline’ building in NAPE which housed the former prosecutor’s office, and created a total of 10 shell companies between 2006 and 2014, receiving some MOP50 million in benefits from the Office’s public contracts.
The accusation states that Wong Kuok Wai and Mak Im Tai and their wives opened bank accounts to operate from the companies’ funds, with the money being transferred to Ho Chio Shun’s accounts.
Ho denied issuing instructions for the contracts to be delivered to the network of companies and any strong friendships with the businessmen involved.
As evidence, the accusation stated that wiretap information collected since 2015 showed that after Mak Im Tai believed himself to being ‘chased’ he only contacted Ho by phone.
“Mak Im Tai worked in China as a junket operator debt collector so it could be normal he felt like he was being chased. I think it’s a natural instinct that kicked in for him to call me,” Mr. Ho stated.
The prosecution also attempted to prove a connection through the alleged nicknames used by the defendants, with Mr. Ho referred to as ‘Boss’, Ho Chio Shun as ‘Tai Lou’, Wong Kuok Wai as ‘Captain’ and Mak Im Tai as ‘Sio Choi’.
“It’s normal that employees treat their superiors as ‘boss’, although most called me Mr. Ho. My brother is the Tai Lou (Big Brother) so it’s normal to be called that,” Mr. Ho stated, adding that apart from some meetings he didn’t know the other businessman.
The prosecution also presented two papers found in Mr. Ho’s residence in which he addressed the defendants by their known nicknames, also showcasing a police report that indicated the calligraphy demonstrated a ‘70 to 80 per cent’ chance of it being by the top prosecutor.
Mr. Ho stated to “not have any idea who wrote the note” and that a calligraphy test is not accurate with “only 150 characters” for evaluation.

A house in Cheoc Van
During the second hearing Ho stated that a residence in Cheoc Van was only used for receiving official MSAR guests and not for personal use but admitted not having paid rent on the property for one year and five months.
The residence involved MOP46,000 monthly rent; according to the accusation the prosecutor used the residence since 2006 for his personal use, with total expenses of public funds for maintenance and rent amounting to MOP5 million, with three construction changes worth MOP710,000.
Questioned why the house was used to receive Mainland China representatives, Mr. Ho stated a hotel room “wouldn’t have been proper” and that it “is common practice in Mainland China”.
The former prosecutor presented a series of names of representatives from Zhongshan, Zhuhai and Foshan who had stayed in the residence for official purposes.
During the 14 years the house was in the public domain and, according to the accusation, changes made to the house revealed personal use, such as the installation of an aquarium, a sauna, and the garage area turned into a cabinet with a wine cellar.
The former top official admitted changes were made but only after the house lease contract finished in December 2014, with Mr. Ho saying the rent remained unpaid for a year and five months, and that he intended to purchase the house.
However, the former prosecutor considered that he “had committed a mistake” by not informing the current prosecutor, Ip Song Sang, of the residence’s existence after his tenure had finished.
“Some prosecution delegates saw the house and asked if I had bought it. Of course I said I hadn’t and said it was the property of the Prosecutor’s Office. Maybe I should’ve invited them for a barbecue there. That way maybe I wouldn’t now be accused,” said Mr. Ho during yesterday’s trial session.
It was after the arrest of the former prosecutor that the house owner filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office for an eviction order, after which Mr. Ho’s belongings were found in the property.
The high profile trial continues on Wednesday.