The corruption trial of two property tycoons, the brothers Thomas and Raymond Kwok of Sun Hung Kai Properties, and Rafael Hui, Hong Kong’s former No. 2 official, will soon go to the jury.
Stretching over half a year, it has been billed as the highest-level criminal case in the city’s history.
The trial had all the elements of a sensational courtroom drama, featuring “tales of lavish spending, mistresses, a kidnapping and secret payments from Beijing”, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But it has been overshadowed by a much bigger drama, the student-led democracy protests that have made waves across the world.
Both developments, though, are related, according to the newspaper.
The protesters are seeking “to overturn the city’s election system, in which Beijing and powerful business interests like the Kwoks effectively control which candidates can run for Hong Kong’s leader”, the report said.
It noted that the Kwok brothers and Hui served on a 1,200-member committee that elected Hong Kong’s current leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, in 2012.
The students are also rallying against the growing income gap and skyrocketing housing prices in the city, as exemplified by a mansion being sold by Sun Hung Kai for US$105.7 million, which would make it the world’s most expensive home per square foot, it added.
The case centers on some US$3.7 million in payments made to Hui in 2005 and 2007, immediately before he took office as the city’s chief secretary and shortly after he left.
The prosecution alleges that the payments were bribes to make Hui “favorably disposed” to the Kwoks’ interests.
But the defendants insist that the payments were for Hui’s services as a consultant to the company.
There’s been no evidence that Sun Hung Kai benefited from the payments, the report said. The company also said the case has not affected its business and operations.
The judge began his summation of the trial to the jury on Monday.
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