International edition
June 24, 2021

Illegal acts were involved, according to the government

Macau says Chinese Estates' property deal invalid

(Macau).- Macau invalidated a land sale to Chinese Estates Holdings, controlled by billionaire Joseph Lau, and alleged that unlawful acts were involved in the deal, in the second high-profile scandal to hit a Hong Kong developer this year.

M

acau warned in June it could declare the sale invalid after a prosecutor alleged that a former Macau official was paid a us$ 2.58 million bribe by Lau and another prominent tycoon Steven Lo to push through the transaction.

The scandal comes a month after Thomas and Raymond Kwok, the billionaire co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties, and Rafael Hui, Hong Kong's former Number 2 public official, were charged in a bribery investigation surrounding Asian largest developer.

Illegal acts were involved in the land deal, the Macau government said in a statement this week. It was not immediately clear how it came to its decision before a corruption trial involving Lo and Lau that starts next month.

Chinese Estates said in a statement late on Tuesday that it was seeking legal advice on the notice. The company's subsidiary Moon Ocean, previously owned by Lo, has 15 days to object to the decision or appeal to the courts.

Chinese Estates is planning to build a luxury development named after the Milan opera house near Macau's casino-lined Cotai Strip. The company said it has pre-sold 304 apartments at the multi-tower La Scala, generating sales of us$ 489.8 million and deposits of us$ 49.5 million.

The invalidation of the residential development in Macau, the only place in China where nationals are legally allowed to casino gamble, comes at a time when gambling growth is slowing sharply and the government is moving to put a lid on corruption. Property brokerage Jones Lang LaSalle is also assisting Macau's anti-graft body with inquiries into the corruption case.

The former official allegedly bribed, Ao Man-long, was Macau's secretary for transport and public works and the most senior government figure ever arrested by Macau's anti-graft agency. He is already serving 29 years in jail for accepting bribes to speed approval of projects.

Lau, known for his lavish red wine and fine art collection, has denied any wrongdoing. The divorced tycoon's love life is a staple of Hong Kong's tabloids, with Lau linked to a string of former Miss Hong Kongs. Lo has also testified he did not pay a bribe.

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