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Govt takes back last graft-tainted La Scala plots

The government said Wednesday that it had taken eight plots of land from Hong Kong-based Chinese Estates Holdings’ Moon Ocean property development company near the local airport because of the project’s alleged involvement in a corruption scandal. The government formalised the repossession of the plots in an announcement published in the Official Gazette (BO) Wednesday. […]

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:48 am

The government said Wednesday that it had taken eight plots of land from Hong Kong-based Chinese Estates Holdings’ Moon Ocean property development company near the local airport because of the project’s alleged involvement in a corruption scandal.

The government formalised the repossession of the plots in an announcement published in the Official Gazette (BO) Wednesday.

The government’s announcement came after Chinese Estate Holdings said in a statement to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Tuesday night that Moon Ocean received a notice from the Macau government earlier that day informing the company of the invalidation of a land-lease revision carried out in 2011.

According to the statement by Chinese Estates Holdings, the 2011 revision mainly involved an increase of residential gross-floor area of its development project near the airport from 392,505 to 537,560 square metres and an exchange of nine small pieces of land with the total site area of about 1,282 square metres, which initially formed part of the site, for eight small pieces of adjacent land with the total site area of around 5,204 square metres.

Chinese Estates Holdings said that it was taking legal advice on the matter.

The company’s statement cited by The Macau Post Daily also said that it had been given 15 days from yesterday to object to the government’s decision on the matter, adding that it may also appeal to the Court of Second Instance (TSI).

Following Wednesday’s announcement, the government has repossessed all the 13 La Scala development plots near the airport. Five of the plots were taken back by the government last year.

All the development’s plots of land have now been reclaimed by the government.

The government took action after the Court of Final Appeal (TUI) rules last year that the government’s then secretary for transport and public works Ao Man Long received HK$20 million in bribes from Chinese Estates Holdings boss Joseph Lau Luen-hung and his business partner Steven Lo Kit-sing in 2005 to make sure that they would win a public tender for the La Scala land.

Ao is serving a 29 1/2-year jail term for graft, money laundering, abuse of power and other crimes.

He was arrested in December 2006.

Lau and Lo have denied the court’s allegations. Following several postponements over procedural issues, both are finally scheduled to stand trial on graft and money laundering charges over the La Scala deal on April 29. However, government broadcaster Radio Macau reported Wednesday that the trial may be postponed once again, but this time “just for a week.” The radio station did not say how it obtained the information.

Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Si Io told reporters on the sidelines of a Legislative Assembly standing committee meeting Wednesday that the government had not yet decided what to do with the repossessed pieces of land.

The La Scala project has been mothballed since last year, leaving a raft of flat buyers wondering what will happen to their ill-fated investments.

The government urged buyers in a statement Wednesday to be cautious about purchasing uncompleted flats. (macaunews)

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:48 am

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