A former driver of ex-Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng testified yesterday that he had driven the latter to his official residence in Cheoc Van to pick up “what seemed like two pieces of wood wrapped in newspapers” which were later taken to the 16th floor of the Hotline Building.
Witness Kuong Weng Kuai said the car journey happened on the same day that Mr. Ho was interrogated by the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) in February 2015 after he was requested by the current Prosecutor-general Ip Son Sang to return some missing agar wood confiscated by the Macau Customs.
The former top official is accused of one crime of destroying materials under government property [care] for having allegedly moved valuable agar wood confiscated by the Macau Customs between 2013 and 2014 to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
He is also accused of using the residence in Cheoc Van – rented by the Public Prosecutor’s Office – for personal use under false pretences that the residence was used to serve judiciary and political guests.
According to previous statements by current Assistant Prosecutor-general Vong Vai Va in the top court, an investigation into illegal appropriation by Mr. Ho was initiated in 2015 when pieces of the agar wood were found missing from the Office’s storage room.
At the request of current Prosecutor-general Ip Son Sang, Mr. Ho returned three pieces of agar wood, with the probe into Ho later dropped due to the lack of evidence.
The former top official claims the pieces were moved to the storage room of the Public Prosecutor’s Office for “inspection purposes” and that the missing pieces were believed to be fake while the authentic ones had not been removed from the building at all.
However, former employees of the Office who dealt with the evidence have testified that Mr. Ho had requested the “best pieces” of agar wood to be moved from the storage room of the Office to the resting room of the 16th floor of the Hotline Building.
Escapades in Cheoc Van
During the afternoon trial session, the court heard that three former housekeepers and security guards had worked at Ho’s Cheoc Van residence during a period spanning 1998 to 2016, in addition to a maid who was responsible for taking care of Ho’s children.
The witnesses all confirmed that the former Prosecutor had visited the residence with his family several times during the period.
The employees said they had seen several people “dressed up and with bodyguards” visit the residence in the first few years accompanied by Mr. Ho for a short period of time, adding these kinds of visits were gradually reduced while there was no such visit at all between 2013 and 2016.
The witnesses also said that the former Prosecutor would visit the house with his wife and children on weekends and holidays, with an average frequency of two times a month. The duration of the visits were usually short and they claimed that they did not remember if anybody had stayed overnight in the residence.
In particular, a security guard named Lam Sou Chai said he had thought the residence was “one of Mr. Ho’s private residences” before recently discovering that it was not based on news reports.
The witnesses also confirmed that the residence was equipped with various amenities such as a sauna, a wine cave and security barriers for children on the stairs, while Ho’s personal belongings like personal photos and clothes of deceased relatives were also kept in the house. Mr. Ho argued yesterday that he would only take his family to the residence when he had official guests “for company”.
The former official had said previously that the reason some of his personal belongings were in the residence was because he was moving house after finishing his term as Prosecutor-general, indicating his belongings were just kept in the house temporarily.