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Judge’s sick leave delays La Scala trial to January

A court hearing with eight defendants including Hong Kong real-estate tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung and his business partner Steven Lo Kit-seng accused of bribing former Macau secretary for transport and public works Ao Man Long in a land deal involving the luxury La Scala residential development did not go ahead Monday as scheduled because the […]

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:51 am

A court hearing with eight defendants including Hong Kong real-estate tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung and his business partner Steven Lo Kit-seng accused of bribing former Macau secretary for transport and public works Ao Man Long in a land deal involving the luxury La Scala residential development did not go ahead Monday as scheduled because the trial’s head judge is on sick leave.

“The head judge has been taken ill. Another panel of judges cannot take on the case due to its complexity and so the hearing will be postponed to January 7 at 9.30 p.m.,” a court official announced Monday just as lawyers and Lo entered the court room, according to The Macau Post Daily.

Lo was quickly ushered out from the court. Lau did not show up for Monday’s hearing at the Court of First Instance (TJB).

Ao, who was taken from his jail cell in Coloane to the TJB was not in the court room when the delay was announced.

Ao is serving 28 ½ years behind bars since his arrest in December 2008 for corruption, money laundering and other crimes.

“It’s unfair (for the defendants)”, Jorge Neto Valente, Lo’s lawyer, told reporters as he left the court.

“You can’t just waste people’s time like this. I don’t know if he will appear in court next time.”

Neto Valente, a former legislator, heads the Macau Lawyers Association (AAM).

Neto Valente also said that it was a hassle for people from elsewhere to come to Macau as witnesses and they might not be willing to testify for the rescheduled hearing.

“I was only informed (about the delay) at 9.20 p.m.   I’m not the doctor, I haven’t seen her but she knows she should have informed us before. I hope she gets well soon,” Neto Valente said, pointing out that the trial’s Presiding Judge Alice Costa has been unwell since late August or early September.

According to Ao’s court hearings in May, Lau allegedly bribed Ao with HK$20 million in 2006 to get ownership rights to five plots of land located opposite the airport in Taipa.

The site measures 79,000 square metres in total and was sold by the government to Lau’s Moon Ocean development company for HK$1.3 billion.

The La Scala project has meanwhile been mothballed. Moon Ocean is a subsidiary fully owned by Hong Kong-listed Chinese Estate Holdings, headed by Lau.

The government formally annulled the land-lease deal on August 15.(macaunews)

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:51 am

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