Kwoks raise the bar

Sun Hung Kai Properties' Kwok brothers are buying the best legal brains in the business as they build a team of top barristers to defend them against corruption and conspiracy charges.

Eddie Luk and Victor Cheung

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sun Hung Kai Properties' Kwok brothers are buying the best legal brains in the business as they build a team of top barristers to defend them against corruption and conspiracy charges.

Lawrence Lok Ying-kam, who accompanied Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday, has been retained for three years with an annual fee of HK$30 million.

And Raymond Kwok Ping-luen has won the services of Clive Grossman, who helped the late Nina Wang win a legal battle for control of her late husband Teddy Wang Teh-huei's Chinachem business empire against her father-in-law Wang Din-shin.

The total legal bill could top HK$100 million.

A legal source said there are only 30 to 40 barristers in Hong Kong who specialize in criminal cases.

It is understood the Kwok brothers have already approached 20 to 30 of them - apart from those likely to have a conflict of interest, like Cheng Huan, who has been secured by their elder brother Walter Kwok Ping-sheung.

The Kwok brothers' search for the best of the bar also shrinks choices available to the government. Director of Public Prosecutions Kevin Zervos is reportedly planning to hire barrister Kim Robinson from Britain, senior counsel Joseph Tse Wah-yuen and two more barristers.

Sources said Raymond Kwok may also hire silks from Britain too. Among those in Thomas Kwok's team are British silk Clare Montgomery and senior counsel Selwyn Yu Sing-cheung.

Thomas and Raymond Kwok, along with former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, Sun Hung Kai's executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and Francis Kwan Hung-sang, a former official of the Hong Kong stock exchange, were charged last Friday in one of the highest-level corruption cases in Hong Kong's history.

Hui allegedly owed a debt of around HK$72 million by the end of last year.

Hui will be represented by barrister Edwin Choy Wai-bond, and Chan by barrister Chung Wai-keung.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said: "It is rare that most of the top local barristers specializing in criminal cases have been employed by various defendants in one single legal case."

Lawyer Wong Kwok-tung said renowned barristers can charge between HK$10,000 and HK$50,000 an hour just to study documents. Top barristers can charge more than HK$10 million a case.

Hui faces two charges of misconduct in public office. They allege he accepted the rent-free use of two flats and unsecured loans from a subsidiary of Sun Hung Kai when he was managing director of the Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority and chief secretary between June 2000 and January 2009, failing to declare these to the government.

The advantages allegedly received by Hui totaled about HK$40 million.

Hui and Thomas Kwok face a joint charge of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office, while Hui and Raymond Kwok face a similar charge

As a result of the charges, SHKP has appointed Thomas Kwok's son Adam Kwok Kai-fai, 29, and Raymond Kwok's 31-year-old son Edward Kwok Ho-lai as alternate directors.

They will be supported by two new deputy managing directors, Mike Wong Chik-wing and Victor Lui Ting, who have worked for the company for more than 30 years.

On Friday trading in New York after the suspension of its Hong Kong shares, the American depository receipts of the company rose 0.6 percent to an equivalent of HK$96.12.