Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau was convicted for bribery and money-laundering charges in Macau today.
Lau was sentenced to five years and three months imprisonment by Macau’s Court of First Instance, his lawyer said. Lau has appealed the decision, the lawyer said.
“We totally disagree with the decision,” Luís Mesquita de Melo, Lau’s lawyer, said in a mobile text message after the verdict. “Mr. Lau stresses again that he did not commit any improper act whatsoever.”
Prosecutors accused Lau, chairman and chief executive officer of Chinese Estates Holdings Ltd., of bribery and money laundering in relation to the acquisition of land in Macau, Chinese Estates said in 2012. Lau, who controls almost 75 percent of the HK$38 billion ($4.9 billion) developer, has denied allegations that he or his company might have given bribes to Ao Man-long, Macau’s former secretary of transportation and public works, who was sentenced to 29 years in prison in May 2012.
Lau, an avid art and wine collector, was named in April 2012 in the corruption trial of Ao in relation to land being developed by Chinese Estates in the only Chinese city where casinos are legal.
Ties between Hong Kong tycoons and government officials have in recent years come under scrutiny. The co-chairmen of developer Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. prepare to face trial in May for allegedly providing bribes to one of the city’s former No. 2 government official.
The Macau government had invalidated the land concession for the sites being developed by Chinese Estates into the La Scala, a luxury residential project, the company said in a filing on Aug. 15, 2012. The sites were granted to Moon Ocean Ltd., a business subsequently acquired by Chinese Estates, while Ao was still in office, according to a separate filing.
Chinese Estates shares were suspended at the midday break pending the outcome of the court verdict. Shares lost 18 percent this year.
Lau has a net worth of about $6.9 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The case is CR1-12-0131-PCC in Macau’s Court of First Instance.