Executive councilor Cheung Hok-ming, allegedly derived an economic benefit from a housing project in Tai Po built under the New Territories Small House Policy, hk01.com reported Tuesday.
Land Registry records show Cheung bought a plot on Ping Long Road in Tai Po in June 1998 for HK$3.52 million (US$450,000) through a company he jointly owned with his wife, Chan Mui-mui, reporters from the investigative reporting website found.
Cheung, who is also vice chairman of the powerful rural body Heung Yee Kuk, divided the plot into 12 smaller portions and sold eight of them to indigenous villagers in Tai Po for HK$200,000 each, the report said.
The eight indigenous villagers each used the same correspondence address, that of a residence owned by Cheung’s company.
Between late 2005 and early 2006, the government granted the eight villagers licenses to build a “small house” each.
The witness for each of the eight licenses was a person named Cheung Ching-yee, who has the same residential address as Cheung’s son.
Once the eight houses were built, they were issued certificates of compliance by the Lands Department in October 2007.
The eight owners applied to the department between March and May 2008 to pay the outstanding land premium, so as to be able to sell the properties on the open market.
At the same time, they authorized a person named Lam Chi-hung to handle all matters relating to the houses.
In May that year, Lam signed the deed of mutual covenant on behalf of the eight villagers, who all declared the address of a residence owned by Cheung Hok-ming as their correspondence address.
The eight houses were packaged as Tai Po Deluxe Villa for sale to the public in the second half of 2008.
Crown Champ Development Ltd., of which Lam was a shareholder and director, was appointed to handle the sale of the three-story houses, which were sold at between HK$2 million and HK$5 million per story.
Under the arrangement, the eight villagers kept “their” houses for around a year.
When contacted by reporters on Friday last week, the executive councilor admitted he was the person who signed the legal papers to sell the land plots.
However, he said he would need more time to retrieve further information, as the company had closed down.
Cheung said in a written reply later he could not provide further information, as all the documents related to the matter were lost after the company folded several years ago.
Reporters located Lam at a jewelry store in Yuen Long and asked him if he was responsible for the development of Tai Po Deluxe Villa.
Lam admitted signing documents including the deeds but said it was done on behalf of his company.
He refused to disclose his relationship with Cheung.
Barrister Jeffrey Tam Chun-kit said that judging from the evidence available, the owners of the land plots seemed to have a certain degree of participation in the development of the residential project.
Tam said that between 1997 and 2007, indigenous villagers were required to declare under oath that they had not entered into any agreement regarding their right to construct a small house under the Small House Policy.
He said the eight villagers and their partners in the case could be criminally liable.
Legal constituency lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang, who is also a barrister, said it would be difficult to prove, using the documentary evidence, that Lam, who was delegated authority by the eight villagers, was working with Cheung.
Lau, sons manipulated small house policy for profit: website (Jan. 19, 2016)
Fraud prosecution signals shift on Small House Policy (Jan. 6, 2016)
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