ICAC arrests tycoon brothers (SCMP; paywall)
Sun Hung Kai bosses Thomas and Raymond Kwok detained with former chief secretary Rafael Hui in unprecedented probe into bribery and misconduct
Niall Fraser and Clifford Lo
Mar 30, 2012
The ICAC made the biggest arrests in its history yesterday when it detained two of Hong Kong's richest tycoons and the former top government official who masterminded Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's successful bid to become chief executive.
The arrests were made as part of an unprecedented investigation into allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office.
Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, 64, was arrested at his home early yesterday.
Tycoon brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 59, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 58 - who control Hong Kong's biggest property developer Sun Hung Kai - were detained later in operations across the city carried out by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Anti-graft agents also raided the Kwok brothers' offices in the Sun Hung Kai Centre, seizing documents and computer material. All three men were still being questioned last night, but had not been charged.
The arrests come at a politically sensitive time, just four days after Leung Chun-ying became the city's new leader following a scandal-plagued election in which questionable ethics and the relationship between the government and big business were a major focus.
The slow-burning investigation into Sun Hung Kai and Hui has been under way for some time but could not be made public for legal reasons. Yesterday's arrests changed all that.
It is understood the probe was given fresh impetus in the wake of a bitter family feud which culminated in Thomas and Raymond Kwok's older brother, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung, leaving the company in 2008 claiming his siblings forced him out.
The South China Morning Post understands that the highly-complex probe centres on Hui's alleged relationship with Sun Hung Kai over several years both when he was in, and out, of government.
One key allegation centres on a luxury 4,000 sq-ft apartment Hui rented from the property giant in Leighton Hill, Happy Valley.
Several sources have also told the Post that ICAC investigators are looking into suspected debts of "more than HK$100 million'' linked to Hui, including allegations of an unsecured loan of HK$50 million in addition to alleged irregularities relating to land deals involving Sun Hung Kai.
A private sector source with a knowledge of the investigation said: "This is a truly a major investigation which leads deep and far.''
In a statement issued last night, Sun Hung Kai confirmed the Kwok brothers' arrest and said it would not affect the normal business and operations of the Group.
Trading in Sun Hung Kai's shares was halted yesterday and last night the company said they would request that trading restart today. Yesterday's arrests follow those of long-serving Sun Hung Kai executive director Thomas Chan Kui-yuen 10 days ago, and four other people in recent days, for their alleged connection to the same anti-corruption probe.
Chan and the four others were not charged and were released on bail.
Well-placed sources say Chan's arrest came out of information unearthed during the long-running probe into Hui and Sun Hung Kai.
Out-going chief executive Tsang - who is also being probed by the ICAC over his alleged connections to the city's tycoons - and the man who lost to Leung in the chief executive race, Henry Tang Ying-yen, are on leave and were not available for comment.
Fellow tycoon and Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, chairman of Cheung Kong Holdings, said of yesterday's events: "Sun Hung Kai is a competitor as well as a good friend of us. I do not know what happened with them but I hope they can remain all right in the end."
James Sung Lap-kung, a political observer at City University, said the investigation was a severe blow to the government's reputation.
"Coupled with what happened to Tsang, who is also under investigation by the ICAC for receiving hospitality from tycoons, the two most powerful people in the government [from 2005 to 2007] have been involved in corruption allegations.
"It's inevitable the public will cast doubt on the government's determination to remain clean," Sung said.