Three staff from property developer Polytex Corporation Ltd., including two real estate agents and an accountant, said yesterday at the Court of Final Appeal that the company had sold a HK$7.9 million (US$1 million) home unit in Villa De Mer to Mak Im Tai, a co-defendant of the bribery case of former top prosecutor Ho Chio Meng, for a much cheaper price, due to Mak’s “close” relationship with Polytex boss Or Wai Sheun.
As the trial of the case resumed yesterday, the three witnesses testified that Or Wai Sheun, the president of Polytec Asset Holdings Ltd –parent company of Polyex – had offered a 25 per cent discount for Mr. Mak to purchase a housing unit at the residential building located in Areia Preta on the Peninsula in 2009 due to their “close relationship”.
The co-defendant then allegedly requested the contract and payments be made under the name of Mr. Ho’s wife, Chao Siu Fu, which was accepted by the Polytec boss.
While the prosecutors accused the Polytec president of indirectly offering the discount to the former prosecutor in exchange for benefits, none of the three witnesses could provide any information on what benefits could have been offered to the businessman.
According to the accountant surnamed Ip, the initial contract was to be signed by the co-defendant, who later requested to use the name of Ho’s spouse for the document.
Since the discount offered was made via a “verbal agreement” and Polytec – which owned the majority of the Villa de Mer property in Areia Preta – is a Hong Kong-listed company, the witness said Mr. Or had requested that the contract be handled “with care”.
The company thus issued in 2009 the receipt of a payment of nearly HK$2 million – which is the amount of discount that the company boss offered to the co-defendant. The receipt reads that Ms. Chao would make the payment in four installments.
Although the witnesses refused the accusations that the receipt was “fake,” the three witnesses admitted they all knew no payment had been provided by Ms. Chao.
From his own pocket
The accountant added that Mr. Or had requested her to use his other company – Hongs Trading Ltd.- to pay the difference of the payment; she believes this money “comes from Mr. Or’s own pocket”.
When Presiding Judge Justice Sam Hou Fai questioned the accountant if the company’s employees were aware that “these kind of procedures could have serious legal consequences”, the witness said: “at the time they hadn’t thought of it”.
Questioned by Assistant prosecutor-general, Chan Tsz King, if similar discounts were common in the company, the three Polytex employees said that the situations would occur although they were rare.
The witnesses added they were unaware Ms. Chao was the wife of the former Prosecutor-general, saying that they knew Ms. Chao as a client.
No knowledge of the discount
The Prosecution also presented yesterday the mortgage contract for the property, on which Mr. Ho’s signature was evident. But the former official claimed he and his wife had never visited the office of Polytex personally.
“I had no knowledge Mak Im Tai had been offered a discount for the property. There was no document stating that… My wife had no knowledge of the contract. I just used her name because of my public notoriety,” the ex-official claimed.
Mr. Ho insisted that the property was bought for his father by the money provided by his family and managed by him.