Government to reclaim five La Scala plots

The government has announced it will recover five plots of land opposite Macau International Airport as state-owned private property. The plots comprise the site that the high-end residence project La Scala was to be built on. Yesterday’s Official Gazette announced these five idle plots – Lots 1c, 2, 3, 4 and 5 located near Estrada da Ponta da Cabrita in Taipa – would be reclaimed by the government as they were undeveloped before their temporary land concession expired on December 13, 2015. The local land law mandates that such land concessions, with a 25-year term, are only effective once the property project of the site is completed. The five land parcels, occupying 78,789 square metres, were originally granted in 1995 to five companies primarily owned by the then-Portuguese Government, whilst Macau International Airport Company Ltd (CAM) and Sociedade de Turismo e Diversões de Macau, S.A. (STDM) each held five per cent stakes in the companies. In 2006, Moon Ocean Ltd., controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau Luen Hung and his partner Steven Lo Kit Sing, was approved by the SAR Government to acquire the five plots for MOP1.37 billion (US$162 million). The company was granted another eight land parcels in 2011 – which were combined with the five plots into a single parcel of 82,711 square metres for the La Scala project. Lawsuits ongoing Following the corruption case of the city’s former Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Ao Man Long, the Macau Government respectively announced in 2012 and 2013 the invalidity of Moon Ocean’s acquisition of the five plots and the granted land concession for the eight parcels. Nevertheless, the incumbent Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Raimundo Rosario, noted in yesterday’s announcement that the local courts have not yet ruled decisively on the appeals filed by Moon Ocean against the 2012 and 2013 dispatches, suggesting lawsuits between the company and the local government are still ongoing. In fact, in 2014, the two Hong Kong businessmen were found guilty of corruption and money laundering for paying a bribe of MOP20 million to the ex-Secretary in 2005 in exchange for successfully bidding for the five plots of land. They were sentenced to five years and three months in jail. Following the ruling of the local courts, Joseph Lau stepped down as chairman of Chinese Estate Holdings Ltd. but bought its then subsidiary Moon Ocean from the parent company in the same year. Meanwhile, neither of the two Hong Kong businessmen is currently behind bars as there is no extradition agreement between the two Special Administrative Regions.