Ex-Hong Kong Development Minister Convicted of Fraud

Hong Kong’s former secretary for development Mak Chai-kwong was convicted of defrauding the government over more than HK$700,000 ($90,233) of housing allowances during the 1980s.

Mak and another former official knew they weren’t eligible for the allowance, District Court Judge Johnny Chan said in delivering his verdict today. They tried “to get the government to pay for their investment,” Chan said.

Mak was arrested last year by the Independent Commission Against Corruption just days after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was sworn in on July 1. Leung’s popularity is near a record low as investigations continue against other former officials including the former head of the anti-graft agency.

Chan set Aug. 8 for the sentencing of Mak, 63, and former assistant director of the highway department Tsang King-man, 58. The two men and their lawyers didn’t speak to reporters after the verdict was announced today.

Both men were granted cash bail of HK$50,000, the ICAC said in a statement.

Mak and Tsang concealed that they had an interest in apartments that they leased from each other’s wives in order to claim allowances between 1985 and 1990, according to the ICAC.

Lawyers for the two men had argued that the rules on leased properties weren’t clearly defined until 1989 and cross-leasing was a common practice, according to The South China Morning Post.

Public Opinion

The prosecution told the court that the men had no explanation for not renting each other’s apartments in their own names, and no reason for providing inaccurate addresses for their wives, the Post reported.

Leung’s support rating was 46.7 on a scale of 0 to 100, according to survey of 1,012 people conducted June 3-5 by the University of Hong Kong’s Public Opinion Program, just above a low of 46 in late September after protests against government education and other policies.

In November, Franklin Lam, another member of Leung’s Executive Council took a leave of absence after media reports that he sold two apartments before Leung imposed measures to curb home prices.

Another cabinet member Barry Cheung last month resigned from all public positions after the police began an investigation into the Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange Ltd. that he founded and headed.

The case is Hong Kong Special Administrative Region v. Mak Chai-kwong and Tsang King-man, DCCC956/2012 in the Hong Kong District Court.

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