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PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 December, 2014, 3:11pmUPDATED : Thursday, 25 December, 2014, 12:04pm
Danny Lee, Alex Millson
Hong Kong police say they have recovered some HK$ 3.6 million out of the HK$15 million that went missing after a money transport van with a faulty rear door spilled large bundles of cash over a busy road on Christmas Eve.
Some motorists and passers-by treated themselves to an early Christmas around lunchtime yesterday, dashing onto Gloucester Road to pick up large stacks of banknotes before armed policemen were able to stave them off and restore order.
Police said on Thursday morning that 13 people had returned HK$3.6 million, after they asked the public to help return as much as HK$15 million which went missing in the frantic scramble for the cash, most of it in HK$500 notes - equivalent of about US$65. No arrests had been made.
Following the incident, British security service company G4S – responsible for transporting the cash – told the South China Morning Post it expected to be liable for the loss of millions.
A spokeswoman said an internal probe was underway, but initial findings blamed a van door malfunction.
People were seen darting onto Gloucester Road in an attempt to scoop up handfuls of HK$500 notes, while witnesses spoke of at least one person collecting an armful of still-wrapped bundles of notes.
Police superintendent Wan Siu-hong on Wednesday asked those who had picked up the money to hand it over to any police officer or police station as soon as possible.
"If he or she keeps the money for his own use, he may commit an offence of theft which is a very serious crime under ordinance," he said.
The security company van was transporting a total HK$525 million in cash, police said. Each cash box it carried contained HK$17.5 million in HK$500 notes.
Of the HK$35 million that fell from the van, some HK$20 million had been retrieved by yesterday afternoon, according to the police.
Despite the excesses of cash spilled, the van operated by three guards continued driving to G4S’s headquarters in Cheung Sha Wan, Kowloon, 14 kilometers way, until the incident was reported.
A picture taken by an SCMP photographer at the scene showed a single bundle of HK$500 notes wrapped in plastic, with a sticker on the side bearing the figure HK$500,000 from the Bank of China (Hong Kong).
One witness, an office worker at a nearby building who requested anonymity, told the SCMP he saw a "regular looking Hong Kong lady" pick up at least 10 cash bricks before quickly walking off, although he could not verify the denominations of notes she was carrying.
"I saw a lady with 10 of them, easily. She looked like a very regular Hong Kong lady. She had an armful of bricks of cash - it was a much as she could carry. She just disappeared into the depths of Wan Chai," the witness said.
The eyewitness said he had just left his office building when he noticed traffic grind to a halt.
"It all started slowing down and I noticed a couple of blue boxes on the road. I thought a lorry had lost some of its load. I saw a few people in the street picking up what I thought were iPhone boxes. As I got closer I saw they were wrapped bundles of bills.
"As well as the packed money there were HK$500 bills lying on the road itself.
"At first people did nothing, then one person went into the road," the witness said, before telling how others quickly followed suit.
"You couldn’t make it up. There were 20 or 30 people picking up cash from the road on Christmas Eve. They looked like schoolkids who knew they were being naughty, but thought, ’this is a once in a lifetime thing’. Everyone had the same look on their face."
Pictures posted on social media showed a taxi driver abandoning his car in the middle of the busy dual carriageway and scrambling around on the tarmac in an effort to collect some of the cash.
A police spokesman said: "At 1.51pm police received calls from members of the public that lots of money was on the road and some people were picking it up. It was suspected the money had fallen from a cash escort vehicle."
Armed police quickly arrived on the scene and cordoned off two lanes of Gloucester Road. The eyewitness said officers became angry as those collecting notes initially ignored their call to get out of the road, before the site was cordoned off.
Three boxes, which appeared to be containers used by security firms to transport large amounts of money, could be seen stacked up in the middle of the road being guarded by dozens of police, including armed officers. Representatives of the security firm G4S were also at the scene.
Sheeta Leung Hui-kwan, a spokeswoman for G4S Hong Kong, said: “We are still having an internal investigation and we found that something went wrong with the door on the left side.
“Our guards [conducted] the job according to the standard procedure but during the incident there were three guards in the van.
“Our guards reported the incident when they reached Cheung Sha Wan, our head office. Due to the code of conduct and the comfort problem, we will not put any guards inside where we store the money.
“The normal procedure is, if the bank wants to release the money somewhere, we will collect the cash and then put it in our vault, and we have to count the cash for security, and then we will deliver it according to the bank’s order.”
G4S said the banks normally only recorded the serial numbers if they were new notes. The security firm was only responsible for counting the cash and making sure the amount was correct, she added.
Regarding potential responsibility for the losses, Leung said “it is for sure” G4S was liable to cover the lost funds.
Officers were later seen in a police van counting out notes recovered from the scene.
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 December, 2014, 3:15pmUPDATED : Monday, 22 December, 2014, 3:41amJeffie Lam and Samuel Chan
The mistress of Rafael Hui Si-yan received so much cash from her former lover that she was embarrassed to take more from him, according to a magazine report in which she confirmed the secret affair with the disgraced former chief secretary.
Former Dragonair flight attendant Eline Shen told East Week that she had been shocked to learn Hui had been convicted of graft and misconduct, and feared gifts he had given her - including a Shanghai flat and an Audi car - would be confiscated following Friday's court ruling.
The 34-year-old from Shanghai said she met Hui at a dinner several years ago and they secretly dated for nearly three years, even though she knew that he had a wife.
She would fly from Shanghai to Hong Kong each time Hui called her for company, she said.
"All my expenses in Hong Kong were paid by Hui … we would have sex every time," said Shen, adding their last date was in September 2011, after which the 66-year-old stopped calling her.
Hui confessed in court that he had spent at least HK$7 million on a young Shanghai woman with whom he started an "intimate" relationship in 2008.
Apart from cash handouts, he told the court, he bought properties and made investments for her, as well as buying her bags, watches and other presents.
Shen said she did not know Hui was a senior official until the graft-buster started the probe.
Shen told the Independent Commission Against Corruption that she had used "about five million", without specifying the currency, to buy a flat and an Audi in Shanghai, with the rest used for daily expenses, according to East Week. The mistress reportedly had not asked Hui for more money after his last cash gift in 2009 as he "had already given me so much money that I found it embarrassing to take any more".
Hui's wife, Teresa Lo Mei-mei, did not comment when asked if she would forgive Hui for keeping a mistress when she visited him at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre on Saturday.
Meanwhile, neither Hui nor Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong - the former Sun Hung Kai Properties co-chairman found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office - had any visitors recognisable to the media during visiting hours yesterday.
At about 12.15pm, just after visiting hours had finished at noon, an employee of Kwok's, thought to be his bodyguard, appeared at the facility. He was inside for about 10 minutes and declined to answer any questions nor confirm if he had met Kwok.
Asked why he was allowed to enter the facility after registration for social visits ended, staff said the visit was not a social one but refused to elaborate.
Former chief secretary and billionaire spend their first night in custody, but property tycoon's brother is cleared of all four charges
PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 December, 2014, 4:42pmUPDATED : Saturday, 20 December, 2014, 3:43am
Hong Kong's former No 2 official Rafael Hui Si-yan and property tycoon Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong spent their first night behind bars after they were convicted of corruption yesterday in a marathon trial that gave a rare glimpse into collusion between the political elite and big business.
Kwok's younger brother, Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, was acquitted of all his four charges. He now takes sole charge of Sun Hung Kai Properties, the city's biggest property developer by market value, as its chairman.
Red-eyed and weary, the 61-year-old walked free from the High Court alone as two other co-accused were also found guilty.
"I have conflicting emotions," he told the media circus waiting outside court. Thanking his wife, mother, children and God, he added: "On the one hand, I'm happy … I've been proven innocent after these two years of struggles. On the other, I'm very unhappy because Thomas Kwok and Thomas Chan … are convicted. We will continue to support [them and their] families."
Thomas Kwok, 63, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. The brothers' top aide Thomas Chan Kui-yuen, 68, was found guilty of two counts - a fate shared by ex-stock exchange official Francis Kwan Hung-sang, 64.
Last night, SHKP said Thomas Kwok and Chan would appeal against their convictions. Both resigned from the property giant after the verdicts.
The man at the centre of the storm, Hui, was convicted of five out of eight charges, making him the highest-ranking official in Hong Kong's history to be convicted of taking bribes.
The case marked the dramatic fall of a man who was once the most influential and decorated star in local politics. Failing to escape the long arm of the law, a fragile Hui, 66, nodded blankly in the dock yesterday as the jury delivered its verdicts at 2.45pm.
Chan, who sat behind Hui, turned red in the face, while Raymond Kwok laid a hand on the shoulder of his elder brother. As he prepared to leave the dock, Raymond paused to speak to the court guards, as if to confirm he really could go.
All four criminals were taken away by Correctional Services Department officers. They may be sentenced as soon as Monday when Mr Justice Andrew Macrae hears mitigation pleas. By last night, Hui and Kwan had yet to decide if they would appeal.
Macrae ordered a doubling of fees for the nine jurors to HK$820 a day, meaning each could claim about HK$100,000 for their work on the case. He exempted all nine from jury service for five years, thanking them for showing "why retention of the jury system is so important in the city".
The case, lasting 131 days, was a close fight to the end. The jurors alone took five days and four nights to make up their minds, and had to seek directions from the judge once. And although four of the five were convicted, only 10 out of the 19 verdicts were in favour of the prosecution.
"[Thomas Kwok] considers the verdict very strange," his lawyer Lawrence Lok SC said outside the court. "Why were some defence arguments accepted but not others, when they were part of the same thing?"
Of Hui's five convictions, three counts were about misconduct in public office. He concealed from his public-sector employers financial benefits totalling HK$16.582 million.
Thomas Kwok was convicted of paying Hui HK$8.5 million, via middlemen Chan and Kwan, days before the latter became chief secretary in 2005. All four were found guilty of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office in a 7-2 jury decision. But the Kwoks were cleared of involvement in HK$11.182 million in bribes for which the other defendants were found guilty.
The billionaire brothers and Hui were cleared of paying HK$5 million and HK$4.125 million in bribes in 2005.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption said it would continue to exercise the law "regardless of the background, status and position of the persons involved". SHKP and two listed subsidiaries, Smartone and Sunevision, were suspended from trading at 2.45pm.
Additional reporting by Enoch Yiu, Julie Chu and Thomas Chan
Bad air truly a matter of life and death
In the two years since the government finished the review of its air quality objectives, nothing has been done about it.
The government doesn't seem to realise the health threats of Hong Kong's poor air quality.
While doctors cannot say on a death certificate that a person was "killed by air pollutants", it is well known among health professionals that air pollution is highly associated with fatal diseases.
Studies have shown that people in polluted areas develop respiratory symptoms more readily and people who are exposed to air pollutants for a long time die sooner than those who are not.
So how bad is the air in Hong Kong? It is not unusual for members of the public to think that air quality is of minimal significance and to consider that our present levels are normal and acceptable.
This is not true.
The air quality objectives have not been updated since 1987, and yet it is this standard that the government uses to assess the extent of air pollution, monitor projects and approve new ones.
The outdated standards are extremely lax compared with the World Health Organisation's air quality guidelines.
Do we not deserve better air to breathe? It is time for the government to face the challenge. No more vague emission control proposals, no more uncertain time frames, no more excuses for negligence.
We can all make a difference by expressing our concerns and urging the government to take action promptly. We all deserve a breath of fresh air.
Wincy Ng Wing-sze, Pok Fu Lam
Devil. Whale. Chlorophyll, Violante, Treacle — you name it, Hong Kong probably has someone who goes by it. Inquisitive, enterprising and...