A long-serving Hong Kong village supremo and his son and successor allegedly profited as much as HK$120 million (US$15.37 million) from residential projects developed under the New Territories Small House Policy in the 1990s.
Former Heung Yee Kuk chairman Lau Wong-fat and his son Kenneth manipulated land sales and development plans, news portal hk01.com reports, citing hundreds of Land Registry documents.
The alleged profiteering involved Dragon Cove and Cenfa Villa, both in Tuen Mun.
The elder Lau sold land to 10 people under the policy which entitles male indigenous inhabitants to build a small village house.
Lau’s son lent money to the buyers on the same day of the sale and acted as their representative, signing related documents on their behalf, the report said.
Kenneth Lau’s involvement and the fact that the 10 villagers have never lived in the houses they were authorized to build by the government circumvented the policy, it said.
The website said one of the villagers confessed to pocketing up to HK$70,000 from the sale of his right to build a house under the scheme.
The policy entitles an indigenous male villager 18 and above who is descended from a resident of a recognized New Territories village in 1898 to one concessionary grant during his lifetime to build one small house.
The Dragon Cove situation parallels a recent lawsuit which claimed many indigenous residents conspired with property developers to build houses under the scheme, hk01.com said.
Reporters found that on Feb. 5, 1994, father and son signed legal papers on 10 houses of Dragon Cove.
Land Registry documents show Lau Wong-fat sold 12 plots at HK$250,000 apiece to the 10 male villagers, the report said.
On the same day the papers were signed, each of the villagers borrowed HK$250,000 from Kenneth Lau, with the newly bought land as collateral, suggesting they did not spend a cent of their own money to acquire the land, it said.
They repaid the loans in 1994 to 1995 and subsequently applied to the government to build a small house each.
In September 1999, the 10 houses were constructed and certificates of compliance were issued by the Lands Department.
The villagers had been expected to move into their houses.
Instead, they signed over all related matters to Kenneth Lau and his younger brother Francis, the website said.
In November 1999, Kenneth Lau paid the outstanding land premium on the houses, packaged them into phase one of Dragon Cove and sold them for HK$3 million each.
Lau’s family have used similar tactics to develop other housing projects, including phase three of Dragon Cove and Cenfa Villa, the report said.
In a written reply, Kenneth Lau refused to comment on the report but cited his father’s long service as village representative to the Legislative Council.
He said false allegations against his father are hurting his “clean reputation”.
Lau Wong-fat, 79, has been head of Lung Kwu Tan village since 1960. He had been Heung Yee Kuk chairman since 1980 until he stepped down in 2015.
Lau is known to own vast tracts of land in the New Territories.
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