Macao takes legal actions to reclaim Ao's ill-gotten wealth in HK

2008-07-25 11:21:15 GMT       2008-07-25 19:21:15 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

MACAO, July 25 (Xinhua) -- The Macao Special Administration Region (SAR) government has launched legal actions in Hong Kong to reclaim the proceeds and assets still missing from the corruption case involving disgraced former secretary Ao Man Long, the SAR's anti-corruption agency confirmed on Friday.

Tang Io Weng, public relations officer of the SAR's Commission against Corruption (CCAC) told Xinhua that the SAR government is presently working on the recovery of the assets and proceeds involved in Ao's corruption scandal in Hong Kong and Britain.

The South China Morning Post, an English newspaper based in Hong Kong, reported that Macao SAR government has filed a lawsuit in Hong Kong SAR's High Court on its former Transport and Public Works Secretary Ao Man Long, seeking an injunction to freeze the large amounts of funds deposited by Ao in Hong Kong bank accounts.

Ao's ill-gotten proceeds and assets, worth 637 million HK dollars (81.7 million U.S. dollars), were reportedly deposited in 39 Hong Kong bank accounts opened in Ao's name and 92 oversea bank accounts opened in the name of his father, fugitive wife, brother and sister-in-law as well as two safe deposit boxes containing expensive jewelry and watches.

Ming Pao, a Chinese Hong Kong daily, quoted the writ filed by the Macao SAR government as saying that of the bribes received by Ao, 410 million HK dollars (52.6 million U.S. dollars) were still kept in Hong Kong and the other 236 million HK dollars (30.3 million U.S. dollars) were transferred by Ao to Britain before theSAR government takes any legal action to stop it.

In January this year, Ao was sentenced by the SAR's Court of Final Appeal to 27 years in prison on 57 counts of corruption, money laundering, abuse of power and false declaration of assets. Ao is the highest-ranking official ever convicted after the return of Macao to China.

Tang said that although Hong Kong and Macao have not signed any legal cooperation agreement specifically on the matter, but given the two SARs' good relationships and the United Nations' anti-corruption conventions, Macao have the rights to claim corrupt officials' ill-gotten wealth that is transferred abroad.

But he refused to disclose when the Hong Kong High Court will hear the writ, and through what way the SAR government will collect the remaining funds in Britain.

The CCAC said last year that bribes and other ill-gotten gains taken by Ao reached at least 800 million patacas (103 million U.S. dollars). When he was sentenced on January 30 this year, the MSAR's Court of Appeal has ordered the seizure of 252.8 million patacas(32.4 million U.S. dollars) of Ao's ill-gotten gains in Macao.

With the help of relatives and associates, the former secretary laundered the money through a web of offshore accounts, shell companies and properties, the Ming Pao quoted the writ file by theMSAR as saying.

"The recovery of the money may take a relatively long time and involve some complex legal procedures as part of it was deposited in Britain," said Tang.

Ao took millions of dollars of bribes from construction companies which he approved to build casinos, bridges, public buildings and a sports stadium in Macao, according to his trial and relevant statements from the CCAC.

Last month, Ao's absconded wife was sentenced to 23 years on charges of money laundering and unjustified wealth. His younger brother, Ao Man Fu, was jailed for 18 years, while his brother's wife, Ao Chan Wa Choi, was given 13 years, both on money laundering charges. Ao's father, Ao Veng Kong, was sentenced to 10years for money laundering.

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