Ao hit with 29 years for `unmatched graft'

Top News | Mary Ann Benitez and Choya Choi 1 Jun 2012

Macau's highest court yesterday sentenced a former government minister to 29 years in jail for bribery and money laundering, which was described by a judge as massive and unmatched in Asia.

The Court of Final Appeal found former transport and public works minister Ao Man-long, who is already serving a 28-year jail sentence for other offenses after conviction in 2009, guilty on nine charges.

With that earlier sentence, the disgraced official has to serve six more months behind bars. The sentences will run concurrently.

Ao, 56, faced six corruption and three money- laundering charges in the latest case. He was fined 24,000 patacas (HK$23,300) while 31 million patacas worth of assets will be confiscated.

Roped in the scandal were Hong Kong billionaire and Chinese Estate Holdings chairman Joseph Lau Luen-hung and South China Football Club chairman Steven Lo Kit-sing over their winning bid for five parcels of land on Taipa.

The property involved in Lau's case is the HK$20 billion La Scala, which occupies a gross floor area of 5.7 million square feet on Taipa.

President of Macau's Court of Final Appeal Sam Hou-fai said yesterday that Lo had admitted HK$20 million was paid to businessman Ho Ming-fai for his services.

The judge added that Ao's own record mentioned "Big Lau" - Joseph Lau's nickname - and a plot of land in Cotai. This showed that the entire scam was controlled by Ao and that he clearly wanted the company to win the tender, he added.

The judge said Ao's claim that he did not know Lau or Lo was an attempt to protect himself and others.

According to the Macau judiciary system, the Macau chief executive can confiscate the five parcels as bribery was involved during the land granting process, said Iau Teng-pio, assistant professor of the University of Macau's law faculty.

According to a Macau real estate agent, La Scala has sold more than 300 flats since March - 80 percent are local buyers and the rest are mainly mainland buyers. Most of the buyers have paid a 10 percent deposit. So far no one has requested a refund.

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