Tuesday, December 23, 2014 8:39 am
Hong Kong property tycoon Thomas Kwok and its former deputy leader were jailed for corruption Tuesday after a blockbuster trial that shocked the city and deepened anger at cosy ties between officialdom and big business.
Rafael Hui, 66, was jailed for seven and a half years after being convicted on five graft charges, including misconduct in a public office, making him the highest-ranking official in Hong Kong’s history to be found guilty of taking bribes.
Kwok, 63 — who was joint chairman of the southern Chinese city’s biggest property company, Sun Hung Kai — was sentenced to five years after he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office over a series of payments totalling HK$8.5 million (US$1.1 million) to former chief secretary Hui.
The sentences come as resentment grows among the public over the cosy relationship between the government and the city’s business elite.
Hong Kong’s widening wealth gap and social inequality partly underpinned mass pro-democracy protests that brought parts of the city to a standstill for months until rally sites were cleared last week.
With soaring property and rental prices and stagnant wages, there is rising anger over a lack of opportunity for ordinary residents, particularly among young Hong Kongers.
“Members of the public have had a perception of business-government collusion for some time,” said political analyst Sonny Lo, of the Hong Kong Institute of Education.
“This case proves that such public perception has some validity.”
– ‘Deep disappointment’ –
The seven-month graft trial centred around a total of HK$34 million in handouts, which the prosecution said were made to Hui by Thomas Kwok and his billionaire brother Raymond to be their “eyes and ears” in government.
Raymond was cleared of all charges and Thomas cleared of two out of the three against him.