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Head of China Resources denies corruption allegations
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 08, 2013


Former H.K. minister given suspended jail term for fraud
Hong Kong (AFP) Aug 08, 2013 - A former Hong Kong minister was Thursday given a eight-month suspended prison sentence for fraud over his housing allowance, in a case which puts the city's clean image under scrutiny.

Former development secretary Mak Chai-kwong, 63, had been found guilty in June of defrauding the government out of HK$700,000 ($90,243) by "cross-leasing" flats with a colleague, Tsang King-man, when he was a civil servant in the 1980s.

The pair leased apartments from each other's wives in order to claim the government rental allowance. Tsang was given the same sentence.

Mak's arrest in July last year, less than two weeks after he was sworn in, rocked the former British colony known for its respect for the rule of law and relatively clean government.

He was the highest-ranking former government official to be convicted of a criminal offence since the 1997 handover to China.

His case is a blow to the image of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who appointed Mak as development chief in his inaugural administration.

Leung's government is already under fire for its perceived closeness to Beijing, despite Hong Kong's semi-autonomous status, and what critics sees as its failure to solve livelihood issues.

According to a Chinese University of Hong Kong survey in July, only about 16 percent of respondents were satisfied with the performance of Leung's administration, and 37 per cent said they do not trust the government.

Since Mak's arrest, two more of Leung's cabinet members have resigned and lawmakers have called for Mak's successor Paul Chan to quit over his family's interest in farmland designated for redevelopment.

The sentences on Mak and Tsang, a former assistant highways director, were suspended for two years.

Judge Johnny Chan said that in deliberating sentence he took into account Mak's long service in the government and good reputation.

A recent Hong Kong University opinion poll showed that perceptions of a clean government have plunged to their lowest levels since 1998.

The head of giant state-owned conglomerate China Resources has denied allegations of malpractice in a takeover deal after claims he has links with several former top Chinese leaders.

Hong Kong's anti-corruption authorities were reportedly given documents this week accusing Song Lin, chairman of China Resources, of corruption in a deal involving a subsidiary listed in the former British colony.

Former journalist Li Jianjun said previous investigations into Song went nowhere because he had the backing of Zhang Beili, the wife of former premier Wen Jiabao, and He Guoqiang, ex-chief of the ruling Communist Party's disciplinary department, Hong Kong's Apple Daily reported Tuesday.

Song dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous" and threatened legal action over the "smearing".

"The relevant accusations are completely false," he said in a statement posted on China Resources' website Wednesday.

"Some Hong Kong media even linked the matter with state leaders. Their descriptions are ridiculous," he said.

"I reserve the right to take legal actions against the speech and activities that amount to smearing and deliberately fabricating stories," he said, adding the acquisition complied with Chinese and Hong Kong laws.

Six shareholders of CR Power, the China Resources subsidiary involved, are mounting legal action in Hong Kong against more than 20 of its current and former directors, including Song, over the acquisition.

CR Power and an affiliate agreed to buy several mining and factory assets in 2010 from a private firm in Shanxi province for at least 7.9 billion yuan ($1.3 billion), according to Wang Wenzhi, a journalist with the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The final cost of the package was around 10.3 billion yuan, with some key price assessment reports provided by an agency hired by the seller, he added, but some of the mines' licences had already expired.

The allegations follow unrelenting anti-corruption rhetoric by China's leaders in recent months, with President Xi Jinping warning graft could "destroy the party" and threatening "no leniency" for those involved.

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