Presumptions and assumptions
The city’s Court of Final Appeal continued the criminal trial of former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng yesterday in a session that only lasted throughout the morning.
The morning session saw the President of the Court of Final Appeal, Justice Sam Hou Fai, question the former top official on 56 accusations of money laundering and two crimes of failure to properly declare assets.
According to the prosecution the former prosecutor’s brother, brother-in-law and alleged associates had used different methods to transfer money obtained from over 1,300 contracts awarded by the Prosecutor’s Office and authorised by Mr. Ho.
The prosecution stated that Ho’s alleged associates and familiars deposited from nine accounts created under the name of different shell companies some MOP32.7 million (US$4 million) to individual accounts of those persons.
The money was then allegedly mandated by the former prosecutor to be used in investments such as the purchase of a housing unit on the Nam Vam Peninsula, a parking lot in Rua de Aveiro in Taipa, and a MOP9.3 million investment in junket operator Sociedade de Promoção de Jogos Seng Ou Limitada.
The former Prosecutor admitted to transferring money to his brother prior to an investment in the brother’s name was made in the junket operator in 2015, in a period when Ho was already providing statements to the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC).
However, he stated that the transfer was intended for the purchase of an apartment in Avenida da Praia Grande that had belonged to his brother since 2006, and that he had no knowledge of the investment in Sociedade de Promoção de Jogos Seng Ou Limitada.
When asked if there was evidence of the purchase contract, the former prosecutor stated he didn’t manage to sign it, since he was under investigation at the time.
The former Prosecutor-general stated the accusation was full of “presumptions and assumptions” without providing concrete evidence of his supposed connection to the individuals and companies mentioned.
Mr. Ho also requested that due to the “seriousness of accusations of crimes such as money laundering” the presiding judge should read each money laundering accusation individually - as done previously with public contract details - with judge Sam Hou Fai responding that more detailed accusations would be provided by prosecutors at further stages of the trial.
Upon the refusal, the former prosecutor limited his responses to the prosecution’s questions with his usual ‘five denials’ response used during his defence on illicit contract accusations, saying he never committed the accused crimes, didn’t know the companies or the associates mentioned, didn’t receive any illegal gains and would not comment on the accusations.
The former prosecutor was also heard on accusations that, together with his wife, he failed to properly declare bank accounts held between 2010 and 2015, with amounts totalling MOP45.9 million in accounts opened in Macau banks and RMB3.9 million (MOP4.5 million/US$562,607) in accounts opened in Mainland China.
In his defence, the former Prosecutor said he was being accused of failing to declare purchases with illicit gains he is “assumed” to have gathered with no concrete evidence presented.
However, the former top official admitted he had failed to declare or explain some savings accounts in his name that he “didn’t know needed to be declared.”
Ho also stated that although his wife’s name was on the asset declarations she was not involved in their preparation, with the former prosecutor lamenting that his spouse was considered a defendant in his trial.
The accusation also stated the couple failed to declare property assets such as a HK$7.9 million (US$1 million) housing unit and parking space in Bairro Pérola Oriental in Areia Preta.
According to the defendant, the savings account was opened in his name with contributions from his brothers and inherited family money in order to support his father and purchase the Areia Preta housing unit in 2009 to offer the family patriarch.
The court trial was suspended after the morning session and will continue on Wednesday.