Tycoon Joseph Lau files for judicial review of extradition bill

April 02, 2019 14:29
Joseph Lau, shown here with his wife Chan Hoi-wan, said if the extradition law amendments are passed into law. he would be compelled to "exile himself from Hong Kong". Photo: HKEJ

Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau Luen-hung has applied for a judicial review of the proposed extradition law amendments in an apparent move to avoid serving jail time.

In a 44-page writ submitted to the High Court, the former chairman of real estate developer Chinese Estates Holdings (00127.HK) said amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance would allow Hong Kong police to extradite him to Macau where he would have to serve a jail sentence, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

In 2014, a Macau court found Lau guilty of bribery and money laundering in a case involving the former Portuguese colony's fromer secretary for transport and public works Ao Man-long. In absentia, Lau was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.

The property tycoon did not attend the trial, claiming ill health. Lau has been living in Hong Kong because there is no formal extradition agreement between Hong Kong and Macau.

In the writ, Lai asked the High Court to declare that any changes to the extradition laws cannot be retroactive and that surrendering him to Macau would violate the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.

The writ also argued that giving the chief executive unbounded discretion to order an extradition would breach the Basic Law.

Lau said that if the court could not meet his requests, he would be compelled to “exile himself from Hong Kong”. He asked the tribunal to make a decision before the amendments take effect.

The High Court is scheduled to hear Lau's legal challenge on April 17, according to the website of the judiciary.

In reply to an inquiry from HKEJ, the Department of Justice said it is not appropriate to comment on the case as judicial processes are pending, noting that it handles all cases in accordance with Hong Kong law and judicial processes.

Lau’s legal team, whose members include senior counsel Gerard McCoy and senior counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, said on Monday that Lau has direct legal interest in the legal amendments.

If the government enacts the changes hastily this year, Lau could be forced to leave Hong Kong in order to avoid arbitrary custody and illegal extradition procedures, his lawyers said.

It is hoped the court can issue its ruling as soon as possible as it can help facilitate the legislation process, the lawyers added.

Before the weekly Executive Council meeting, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday that as the incident has entered the judicial processes, the SAR government, including herself and the justice department, would not comment on Lau's case.

The HKSAR government is facing legal challenges on a daily basis, but that does not mean it should put on hold important work that concerns public interest, RTHK quoted Lam as saying.

– Contact us at [email protected]

TL/JC/CG