Frozen in time

Former Director of Public Works Jaime Carion is the main suspect in yet another corruption scandal 

By Paulo A. Azevedo 

The Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) has issued a freeze order on a number of properties valued at hundreds of millions of patacas in the name of Jaime Carion, former Director of the Public Works Bureau, as well as those of relatives and associates. 

The list of 40 properties became public when revealed to the Justice Department in order to prevent them from being sold. The April notification comes in the context of criminal proceedings, as reported by Macau News Agency (MNA). 

The case was first made public by Radio Macau. MNA was assured that the MP had decided upon the action because of “valid suspicions of practice of alleged wrongdoing”. 

Upon retiring in 2014, Carion left Macau for an “unknown destination” according to the Administrative Court, but MNA sources say he is now residing in Portugal. Other sources have told Macau Business that Brazil is also a location where the former public works boss might be. 

Properties seized 

An extensive list of properties has been seized; not only from the former DSSOPT strongman but also from his wife, Lei Wai Cheng, and daughter Célia Ana Carion. Other people are also involved in this process, with properties now frozen by order of the MP; namely, that of Kwong Wan Si and husband Man Lai Chung and Cheang Fong Cheng. 

The list of properties (see list) – purchased between 1991 and 2016 – command hundreds of millions of patacas at current market prices, and comprise apartments, parking spaces, offices and commercial and industrial units. 

According to what we have learned, the Public Prosecutor’s office will want to obtain evidence from all those involved in how they managed to acquire these properties. Others not directly related to Jaime Carion are suspected of having acted as accomplices in the concealment of these assets. 

List of seized assets 

Apartment C17 in Nam Fong building (2005) 

Apartment D17 in Nam Fong building (2005) 

Apartment A1 in Son Nam building (1995) 

Apartment B2 in Son Pou building (1995) 

Building in Beco dos Artilheiros nº 5 (1991) 

Buildings in Beco dos Artilheiros nºs 1,3,5,7,9,11 (1991) 

Office in Wing Luen building (2010) 

Two parking places in Nam Fong building 

Apartment C12 in Nam Fong building (2014) 

Commerce area in Pou Seng building (2008) 

Warehouse in Weng Heng building (2008) 

Office area in Travessa dos Lírios (2008) 

Commercial area in Weng Heng building (2012) 

Industrial area in Nam Fong building (2014) 

Commercial area in Phoenix Garden building (2010) 

Apartment in Son Hang building (2013) 

Apartment in Kong Cheong building (2013) 

Two commercial areas in The Pacific Garden building (2014) 

Two apartments in The Residencia building (2013 and 2014) 

Land lot in Rua das Lorchas (2005) 

Parking place in Nam Fong building 

Four parking places in 東方麗都 Av. Almirante Larcerda building (2011) 

Four parking places in The Residencia building (2013) 

Two parking places in The Meridien Court building (2009) 

Two apartments in The Meridien Court building 

Two commercial areas in Tong Lei building (2010) 

Parking place in Nam Fong building 

Building in S. Roque Street, nº 50 and 52 

Finger points to former Secretary for Public Works 

By Nelson Moura 

Local analysts and politicians told Macau News Agency (MNA) that the former Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Lau Si Io, should take some responsibility if any wrongdoing is proven in the current corruption investigation into the affairs of former Public Works Director Jaime Carion. 

After serving for 36 years as a public official, including stints in management positions in the Infrastructure Development Office (GDI) and the Land, Public Works and Transport Bureau (DSSOPT) during the terms of former Public Works Secretaries Ao Man Long and Lau Si Io, Carion retired in 2014. 

Secretary Ao Man Long served in the latter position between 1999 and 2006 prior to his arrest and trial for corruption – with Carion testifying during that trial – while Secretary Lao Si Iu held the position between 2009 and 2014. 

According to political analyst Larry So Man Yum and Legislator Jose Pereira Coutinho, if Carion is found to have committed any irregularity once the investigation is concluded Secretary Lau Si Io should assume some of the responsibility. 

“Did the former Secretary know about it? We have no idea; we don’t have that information. The former Secretary will be asked to provide more information. But in that post he has the responsibility for his staff or if there is any wrongdoing. It is part of the principles of responsibility,” So told MNA. 

Meanwhile, legislator Coutinho recalls that Secretary Lau publicly praised Carion upon the announcement of his retirement, in which he stated that the former Public Works boss had always acted with ‘zeal, responsibility, and professionalism’ in the discharge of his duties. 

“This shows two things,” the legislator told MNA. “That public praise seems to be [little more than] a performance. It is made as a personal thank-you for the work of their underlings [without] matching reality. But what is more serious is the fact that the former Secretary did not properly supervise his subordinates, incurring disciplinary responsibilities – at least under the public worker’s statutes; namely, when it comes to zeal, loyalty, responsibility and honesty”. 

The legislator also noted that despite current civil servants statutes – including code of conduct for public officials – such norms are not applied by the Chief Executive (CE) when it comes to the holders of high public positions having to assume responsibility for wrongdoings conducted in the departments under their control. 

“The CE needs to improve legislation for holders of the main public positions,” he said. “Especially when it comes to what are their responsibilities and punishments in the case of supervision failures; the greatest issue in public departments in Macau is the lack of responsibility for higher public officials”. 

With Carion’s public career taking off in the early 1990’s, analyst Larry So notes that there seems to be an issue in public departments surrounding certain practices that had become normal even during the time of the Portuguese Administration now clashing with a more stringent anti-corruption mentality. 

“Maybe in the past the local Administration was laxer in terms of monitoring. This kind of ransacking has been quite common among officials and the private sector. At that time many people would look upon it as ‘normal’,” he told MNA. “Nevertheless, it is good for the government to initiate investigations even of people who are already  retired or not in the same positions anymore. Things that happened in the past should be dug up”. 

Legislator Coutinho also noted that the areas under the Secretary for Public Works could be divided – with this department seemingly plagued by malpractice issues – adding it would be ideal to appoint seven Secretaries instead of the current five to increase oversight. 

He also criticises the recommendations usually included in reports by the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) which do not “suggest that disciplinary measures be taken, even for situations that could constitute criminal infractions”. 

“Macau residents have already got used to the CCAC reports as mere documents with repetitive recommendations and with no use, in the sense that the reports are revealed with what seems to be a planned timing and have no repercussions – and seem more to serve some political purposes,” the legislator lamented.