$3.5m job not designer's idea of luxury

Local | Phoebe Ng 13 Oct 2017

The HK$3.5 million renovation project of a three-story Shenzhen penthouse for former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was "not luxurious," the High Court heard yesterday.

Architectural designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai also testified he didn't know Tsang had nominated him for a government honor he received in 2011 until early this year.

Ho was appearing as a prosecution witness at Tsang's trial on one count of accepting an advantage from the property's landlord, Bill Wong Cho- bau, who was seeking several broadcasting licenses from Tsang's administration during that time.

The Shenzhen East Pacific Garden design project at the center of the corruption charge, was carried out by Ho's design team. In re-examining Ho, prosecutor David Perry asked his witness why he would stress the "simple" nature of the redecoration work.

"It was inevitable for a three-story penthouse equipped with gym, library, calligraphy room and rooftop garden would give a lush impression - especially when compared to cramped living space for most Hongkongers," Ho replied.

Ho said he held a different definition of luxury: "I used to travel to Europe just for a sofa made of horsehair, costing at least HK$1 million each."

As for Tsang's Futian penthouse, situated on the 35th to 37th floor with private lift access, Ho said the Shenzhen East Pacific Group had advised using made-in-China materials to keep costs down.

The flat was refurbished with beechwood, which celebrities and tycoons would not normally use, he added.

Work was carried out between February 2011 and 2012, with Ho awarded a Medal of Honour in October 2011 upon nomination by Tsang. Ho reckoned the medal was given to him for providing design services to the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group at discounted rates.

"Mr and Mrs Tsang have never said they would reward me with an honor. I only found out he was my nominee early this year," Ho said.

Tsang, 72, has denied one count of accepting an advantage - the free redecoration work - from businessman Wong between January 1, 2010, and June 30, 2012. The former CE, who chaired the Executive Council, made no declaration about the Shenzhen flat while approving applications by Wave Media that Wong controlled.

The jury trial continues today.

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