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Ball in your court

The ball passed to the defense side on the corruption case in the trial of former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng on Friday

As the Prosecution finished its closing arguments in the trial of former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng on Friday, the final arguments phase switched to the defense team, with the period for the closing period being extended for today.
“We just hope the court will provide us with the same time for the closing arguments as was given to the Prosecution,” Mr. Ho’s main defense lawyer Oriana Inácio Pun told the press.
The Prosecution concluded their closing arguments by saying that the “conduct of the former Prosecutor-general constituted abuse of power and fraud,” with Mr. Ho caring only for his personal interests and giving the Public Prosecution Office a “bad image”.
“No matter the amounts involved in the infractions, they were still serious crimes. We hope the [court] can charge him with an exemplary sentence and a value of MOP70 million (US$8.7 million) be restituted to the MSAR,” the Prosecution concluded.

The best defense is to attack
In its opening remarks, the defense expressed that they had a “lot of doubts” about the impartiality of the investigations into Mr. Ho’s actions, with the investigation findings having been presented as though “Mr. Ho was already guilty”.
The defense criticised the Powerpoint presentation the CCAC made in court, arguing that the findings were presented without considering Mr. Ho’s presumption of innocence, while suggesting the investigation initiated and conducted by the Public Prosecution Office into “one of their own” could have been “biased”.
“Only the Chief Executive could initiate an investigation and send it to the CCAC. Only he can decide if Mr. Ho’s actions constituted abuse of power,” the defense stated.
The defense also added that the conclusions of the investigation were based on exaggerated assumptions of smaller details and evidence, with lawyer Oriana Pun stating that “you need a lot of imagination to come to the conclusions made through simple evidence. If [Mr. Ho] sneezed it would already be considered an order”.
The main defense lawyer stated that the number of “more than 1,500 crimes” presented in the accusations was only reached by “broad assumptions” that what happened in one contract happened in many of the more than 1,300 contracts mentioned.
“Are you saying that everyday Mr. Ho came to the office [during his tenure between 1999 to 2014] he was thinking of committing a crime? We need to use some common sense while thinking of this,” she said.

Summary of the defense’s final statements regarding the main accusations against Mr. Ho

Accusation: Seven fraud and one embezzlement charge related to benefits obtained by alleged Prosecutor’s Office consultant Wang Xiandi to a value of MOP4.2 million.
The defense considered that the Prosecution failed to prove Wang Xiandi had any kind of “woman and men intimate relationship” and that she hadn’t performed any work for the Public Prosecution Office.
Ms. Wang was hired for two periods, first as a consultant from 2005 to 2006, and then from 2010 to 2014, as a non-resident assistant for judicial matters, with the defense stating Mr. Ho didn’t create any function for her and that if he had paid any of her expenses, they were “small amounts, and not qualified fraud of high amount”.
Lawyer Oriana Pun argued that the Prosecution failed to prove Ms. Wang did not have the qualifications to allow her to be hired by the Office, failing to even research the business she operated in Guangzhou prior to being hired.
The defense also noted that other employees in the Office had seen her, and that it hadn’t been proved that the received benefits were requested by Mr. Ho or that the trips they embarked on together were for leisure.

Accusations: 18 accusations of fraud using public funds to lease an area on the 16th floor of the Hotline Building and a residence in Cheoc Van for private use, expending MOP12.5 million of public funds
The defense refuted accusations that Mr. Ho had used public funds to pay the rent of a resting room on the 16th floor of the Hotline Building since 2006 and a Cheoc Van residence since 2000, using the properties for private use.
Lawyer Oriana Pun claimed that the rent for the two properties hadn’t gone “to Mr. Ho’s pocket” but for properties that were intended for use of the Office, either to receive official guests or as a leisure area for high officials.
“There is no video footage of the private use of the [16th floor] area or evidence that someone stayed overnight there (…) It was said the area was kept in secret but the Office has other areas not open for public” Ms. Pun stated.
The defense also restated that the witnesses from the Mainland China Friendship Association, led by Mr. Ho, stated in court that guests had been received in the area in the Hotline Building, with other witnesses saying that what seemed like “distinguished guests” were received in the Cheoc Van residence.
“We can’t prove exactly who they were, but we can deduce the Cheoc Van house served to receive guests from Public Prosecution Offices from Hong Kong and Mainland China,” she added.
Lawyer Oriana Pun also criticised the CCAC investigation for not having checked if the keys found in Mr. Ho’s house in an envelope with ‘Cheoc Van’ written on it, could actually open the house, while critiquing the assumption that the personal belongings found in the house in 2016 had been there for many years before.
“The date when the house was inspected has to be taken into account. It can’t be proven the objects were placed there before,” the lawyer said.
Mr. Ho previously argued in court that the objects found in the Cheoc Van house belonged to a deceased relative and were placed there temporally as he was moving houses.

Accusation: one crime of destruction of public property, value unknown
In regards to the accusations that Mr. Ho requested the moving of valuable agar wood confiscated by the Macau Customs with the intent of keeping them for himself, the defense claimed there were possible criminal implications that justified sending the wood to the Office for inspection.
“Customs said they had to take the wood for investigation to the Office since their archive room was too small and humid. It wasn’t a request by Mr. Ho,” the defense said.
Lawyer Oriana Pun also considered that the witnesses heard had only stated that the former top official requested a random selection of agar wood and hadn’t requested the most valuable pieces, as stated by the Prosecution.
She also recalled that there was no concrete evidence that the agar wood had been moved out of the Office building to the Cheoc Van house, and that an investigation into the missing wood conducted in 2015 hadn’t found any sign of infractions.