Hong Kong’s anti-graft officials visited the homes of Next Media Ltd. (0282.HK) boss Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and that of his top aide Mark Simon, along with that of Labour Party leader Lee Cheuk-yan, fueling talk that a probe was underway into Lai’s donations to political figures and organizations.
Lai, Simon and Lee all confirmed that officers from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) visited their homes on Thursday, according to RTHK.
The anti-corruption officials are said to have visited Lai’s home on Kadoorie Avenue at around 8 am and stayed there for about four hours. Lai’s lawyers were reported to have arrived at the scene shortly after the inspectors arrived.
Lai declined to give more details.
The ICAC officers also went to the home of Lai’s assistant Mark Simon. The visits to the homes of Lai and Simon came after several groups are said to have filed complaints with the ICAC, demanding an investigation into pan-democratic lawmakers who took millions of dollars of donations from Lai.
Labour Party leader Lee said ICAC officers also visited his home Thursday morning and had taken away some bank account documents.
Lee said he was told by the investigators that they were looking into possible links between donations Lee received from Lai and a speech that Lee made in the Legislative Council (Legco) in January.
The pan-democratic lawmaker said he thought it was quite “strange” that the ICAC was linking donations he received from Lai to his speech at the Legco meeting, which included topics such as freedom of speech and withdrawal of advertisements to Apple Daily by big financial tycoons.
“All those issues [pertain to] what is right and wrong. I was just expressing the stance of the Labour Party in the Legco meeting,” Lee added.
Next Media shares were halted from trading at 10:44 am on the stock exchange after media reports surfaced that ICAC officers raided the home of chairman Lai.
The shares plunged as much as 6.1 percent, the biggest intraday decline since Aug. 4, to HK$0.92 at one point, before ending at HK$0.95 when trading was suspended.
Other lawmakers who have received donations from Lai said they have not been contacted by the ICAC. The list includes Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy; Alan Leong Kah-kit, leader of the Civic Party; Civic Party lawmakers Claudia Mo Man-ching and Alan Leong Kah-kit; and the Democratic Party’s To Kun-sun.
Mo questioned the timing of the investigation into Lai, saying that it suggests that the government wants to divert public discussion away from electoral reform, RTHK said.
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