Following a seven-minute notice to the public before beginning, the trial against former Prosecutor-general Ho Chio Meng resumed yesterday, calling as a witness a former vice-president of the Chinese Cultural Promotion Society, who stated that the group had applied for funding from the MSAR Government via the former Public Prosecutions Office (MP) head.
The case, taking place in the Court of Final Instance, heard the former vice-president of the society, surnamed Liu, note that Ho was considered a consultant for the cultural group.
He further explained that Ho was initially approved to be the vice-president of the cultural group by the former Chief Executive, but was denied the role by the central government.
One of the presiding judges, Song Man Lei, questioned whether Ho was consistently the contact person for arranging cultural events.
The witnesses replied that Ho was in a special position as the MP head, saying that it was much easier to make applications for funding to hold the events through Ho.
Liu also disclosed that he had previously met another defendant in the case, Wang Xiandi, several times, when a photo of Wang was presented during the court session yesterday.
He said she had been introduced to him as ‘Assistant Wang’ and had accompanied the former top official when they were attending an event in Xi’an.
According to the prosecution, Wang, who is also a defendant in the case, was allegedly hired by Ho as a consultant at the MP office.
Chinese official visited the resting room
Another witness, surnamed Xing, stated to the court that he had visited the resting room on the Hotline Building’s 16th floor twice during a visit for an event held by the MP – the same floor as the MP office. The 16th floor was also the alleged headquarters of the criminal association Ho is on trial for leading.
Xing, a retired director of the Anti-Corruption and Prevention Department of the Guangdong Province People’s Office of the Public Prosecutor, noted that he had close relations with Ho through business dealings.
Similar to the previous witness, Xing was the director of the Chinese Cultural Promotion Society since 2003.
He revealed that he did not stay in the resting room overnight, but had gone there for lunch on one occasion.
According to Xing’s testimony, Ho had introduced the president of the Society to the Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office to discuss matters.
The second witness also said that he knew Wang and that she had been introduced by the former Prosecutor-general as an assistant instead of a consultant, adding that he never met her at the MP Office.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors of the case brought to light payments by the MP for accommodation and meals in Beijing for Xing, other non-MP staff and Ho during two visits to the Supreme People’s Court.
The witness noted that he was not aware that the MP had paid for the visits, saying that he simply knew that Ho had made the arrangements.
He answered the prosecution, noting that one of the visits to Beijing was for the Society whilst the other was for the MP, but said that he could not recall which event was held by the MSAR Public Prosecutions Office.
Ho’s elder sister attended the hearing
Ho Tak Fun, the elder sister of Ho Chio Meng, revealed that the former official was the one who was wholly responsible for taking care of their father. She also told the Court that she and her other siblings would give money to their father for daily use, adding that their father would ask Ho Chio Meng to keep the majority of the amount for him.
She did not know the reason why her father did not save the money in his own personal account, instead asking her younger brother to open another account and save the money for him.
Ms. Ho also testified that a birthday banquet was held every year after her father reached his 70th birthday, saying that many relatives would attend and they would give many gifts and money to their father for his birthday.
The prosecution asked Ms. Ho if her father had mentioned moving to another flat, to which she responded that matters of moving flats were only discussed between her siblings, noting that she had no idea about whether a new flat had been purchased for her father.
Ms. Ho also stated she was not aware that her younger brother had bought a flat at Villa de Mer apartment building under his wife’s name, Chao Sio Fu.
Defence lawyer Oriana Pun: we wouldn’t have taken the case if we thought we weren’t capable
After the first session since taking over as the defence lawyer for Ho Chio Meng, lawyer Oriana Pun expressed her confidence, despite the pressure of taking over in the middle of the case’s development. Leong Weng Pun, the previous defence lawyer for the ex-official, abandoned the case earlier this month.
When asked about her preparations so far, Ms. Pun told reporters that she and her team are currently preparing for the case and referring to the previous works simultaneously.
When queried if the former MP head is now in a less favourable situation, the new lawyer said that it all depends on the evidence available, adding that the outcome would be unveiled with the Court’s final statement.