The first trial of the bribery case of the city’s former prosecutor-general, Ho Chio Meng kicked off last Friday morning, revealing that the former top official had allegedly diverted a total of MOP76 million (US$9.5 million) from the pocket of the Public Prosecutor’s Office through diverse illicit means.
The case was heard by the President of the Court of Final Appeal, Justice Sam Hou Fai and fellow judge Song Man Lei, as well as the President of the Court of Second Instance Lai Kin Hong. Prior to the hearing of the 1,970 charges of the ex-prosecutor-general, the three judges had spent a total of three hours reading the indictments against the former official.
According to the indictments, Mr. Ho had allegedly led a criminal group since 2000 with his brother, Ho Chio Shun and brother-in-law, Lei Kuan Pun, in addition to other associates, for the purpose of earning illicit gains from the granting of public contracts of services and procurements from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The group created a total of 10 shell companies and received around MOP50 million in benefits from the Office’s public contracts between 2006 and 2014. These contracts included the purchase of printers for the Office, H1N1 virus prevention and clearing services, and white ant extermination services.
The contracts were awarded with values 10 per cent to 50 per cent higher than market value, with some not being fulfilled at all.
In addition, the prosecutors found tens of millions were transferred to Mr. Ho’s brother’s bank accounts, to purchase apartments and parking spaces, in addition to a MOP9 million investment in a junket operator named in the proceedings as Sociedade de Promoção de Jogos Seng Ou Limitada.
One of the accusations also states that Mr. Ho and his wife failed to declare around MOP20 million worth of properties to the authorities with no justification.
During the trial, the former prosecutor challenged that the judges should describe the crimes related to contract awards in detail, but the top court president responded that it would “take 1,000 years” to do so.
Pleading not guilty, the ex-official also complained during the trial that he wasn’t able to exert his right as a defendant to consult all the accusing documents while he was in custody, adding there were “many complex facts” stated in the nearly 10,000-page indictment.
Massages and rosin wood
In addition, Friday’s trial also revealed that the former prosecutor had illegally rented the 16th floor of the ‘Hot Line’ building in NAPE as a “resting room” for the Office, which was equipped with karaoke, table tennis, as well as a sauna and massage parlour.
According to the accusation, the area was unknown to the other MP employees, who weren’t allowed to enter the area, and phone lines to the rooms were not listed on the internal contact list. The rental of the venue cost the Office at least MOP7.5 million.
But the official rebutted that the accusations “weren’t true” and the venue was not exclusively used by him.
He said the current prosecutor-general Ip Song Sang entered the venue in January last year without asking for the key, claiming some CCAC documents of other cases he processed in the area “disappeared” afterwards.
He also explained some of his belongings in the venue – such as baby cradle and valuable vases – were left there during a period when he was moving from his official residence when he left the position as prosecutor-general.
The former prosecutor also argued that the “resting room” had been used to receive representatives from Mainland China and other officials, and that he could provide 10 witnesses to testify on this matter.
Another issue dominating the first trial last Friday was the alleged appropriation of contraband rosin wood, confiscated by Macau Customs in 2013 at the Gongbei border. According to the indictment, the former Prosecutor ordered the city’s Customs to move the wood to the “resting room” venue, but it was later found at his residence in Coloane.
Denying the accusations, the former prosecutor said he hadn’t ordered the rosin wood to be moved.
The former top official, in the role between 1999 and 2014, is accused of 13 types of crimes, 646 instances of fraud, 434 instances of illegally sharing economic benefits and 434 instances of abuses of power.
The trial of the high-profile case continues today.
Public money for private travel
One of the accusations relates to a trip by the ex-prosecutor to Copenhagen, Denmark. According to the indictment, the official claimed he was attending a prosecutor’s conference in northern Europe. Accompanied by his wife and nephew, the ex-top prosecutor however travelled to all Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Germany, racking up travel expenses totaling MOP796,965 paid for by public money.
A friend in hand
The former prosecutor is also accused of hiring a Mainland Chinese woman with no qualifications for a legal position. The woman allegedly received MOP4.2 million between 2012 and 2015 in salary and subsidies, with a personal government vehicle transporting her to her Zhuhai residence on occasions.