Courts | First witnesses called to testify in Ho’s case show poor memory

Ho Chio Meng (second from left), pictured with the Chief Executive (center) and judges when he was still leading the MP

The trial of the former Prosecutor-General, Ho Chio Meng, continued yesterday at the Court of Final Appeal. It was the first time that witnesses were called in to testify by the prosecution team, which views them as key to proving Ho’s guilt.

The witnesses were asked to give their knowledge on topics such as the so-called “teachers resting room” located on the 16th Floor of the Hotline Building in NAPE as well as the accommodation villa in Cheoc Van that the Public Prosecution Office (MP) rented under the helm of Ho. The case of agarwood pieces originally apprehended by the Macau Customs Service (SA) and kept under the care of the MP was also raised, since those items were later found in Ho Chio Meng’s working office and at other locations.

Expectations were dashed by the poor memory of some of the witnesses, raising doubt over Ho’s apparent fascination with agarwood that the court wanted to see cleared.

The first to rise to the witness bench was Wong Kuok Wai, a name much heard in previous sessions. He was allegedly the representative and person responsible for several of the institutions that the prosecution claims to be front companies used to mask the profits of Ho in several kinds of illegal activities.

But the session didn’t start without protest from Ho’s lawyer, who contested the call of the three witnesses to testify, claiming a legal challenge based on the fact that all three witnesses are in fact defendants in other criminal cases co-related with Ho’s.

From the witnesses’ perspective, there was a similar “fear” of testifying in a way that jeopardize their defense in future trials to be held in the Court of First Instance.

After a quick analysis and taking in good note the opinion already expressed by the judge in charge of the other case, the collective of judges led by Sam Hou Fai decided to refuse the request of both Ho’s defense and the witnesses that were calling for time to speak with their lawyer.

Possibly as a result of this “fear factor,” the first witness had little to add to the case replying with a laconic “I don’t remember” to most of the questions from the prosecution, the collective of judges and the defense lawyers.

From the little that Wong had to say or that he could remember, it was revealed that he, through companies that he owned, was responsible for most of the renovations, maintenance and cleaning duties in both of the MP offices, the villa of Cheoc Van and at Ho’s family residence.

Wong revealed also he was one of the few “trusted men” of the MP to hold the keys for the “teachers resting room” since he had organized some renovation and decoration works. He justified the possession of those keys due to a need to “frequently visit the place to check if any maintenance was needed and to do the cleaning.”

Asked who granted him permission to hold the keys, he again replied: “I don’t remember.”

One of the most highlighted topics of the day and that occupied most of the court’s attention yesterday was the case of the agarwood.

With regards to this, Wong said he had seen some wood in the “teachers resting room” before but, once more, could not confirm if they were the pieces shown to him in photographs by the prosecution.

The topic of the agarwood pieces was again raised by the third and last witness of the day, Lai Kin Ian, former Chief of Office of the Prosecutor General of Public Prosecutions Office, who is a defendant in a different case that resulted from the investigation into Ho.

Lai, questioned by the prosecutors on the modus operandi of the office in relation to adjudications and other decisions regarding contracts, revealed that in many cases he had been mandated by Ho to perform daily duties like contract signage among others.

This mandate was, according to Lai, “never published in BO [the Official Gazette] I believe, but I’m not certain about that.”

Another of the duties revealed by Lai during the court session concerned the case of the agarwood pieces.

According to Lai he served, as he often did during the 15 years that he was heading Ho’s office, as a middleperson in communication and other functions between Prosecutor-General Ho and the deputy prosecutors, among other judiciary authorities and magistrates. Having had access to processes that terminated with Ho, and being able to check on goods resulting from apprehensions, he mentioned that he had visited the room where the agarwood pieces that the SA had transferred to the MP on the suggestion of Ho were kept.

His testimony led to some final remarks from judge Lai Kin Hong, who said, “this is ridiculous,” and recalled that Lai, besides being only an administrative official and not a judicial officer nor a magistrate, revealed total ignorance about the law as well as the duties of his profession.

Lai acknowledged that he has no background in law but equally denied knowledge of any wrongdoing in following the orders of Ho.

Also on the witness bench was Mak Im Tai, the partner of Wong Kuok Wai in several of the companies performing tasks for both the MP and Ho Chio Meng privately.

Mak, who was said to be a long-term friend of the plaintiff, admitted to having met with him once or twice during after office hours at the “teachers resting room” to discuss family issues. He denied that these meetings had anything to do with the rental of the Cheoc Van villa, although he knows the owner of that property, and he has relatives that work at the MP, such as his sister-in-law, Lou Siu Lan.

Macau City Fringe Festival

Activities to commence from Friday

T

he 16th Macau City Fringe Festival is due to take place in the city from tomorrow until January 22, with the opening ceremony to be held this Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Old Court Building.

This year’s edition of the festival has adopted the slogan of “A Feast of Creativity! Bon Appétit!” in line with the concept of “All around the city, our stages, our patrons, our artists”. It will bring foreign artists together with their local counterparts to “create a distinctive event in the city,” according to organizers.

On the day of the opening ceremony, six shows will be introduced, including “Zuò Zuò Tea House”, “Night”, “Mobile Kitchen”, “In Good Hands”, “Body Code: Post- colonial Blue Birds” and “Antiwords”, reflecting the diversity of the program for the first weekend of the festival.

“Zuò Zuò Tea House” will be staged in six consecutive sessions on Saturday afternoon. The performance reveals the secrets of Rua da Felicidade by combining elements of dance and music which contrive to explore the history of Macau’s red-light district. Later that evening, “Night”, translated by Circolando from Portugal, encourages audiences to question language and aesthetics through live music manipulated by a DJ and an intensely physical and emotional dance by a trio of men.

“Mobile Kitchen” will invite designer and movie actress Mi Lee to prepare Chinese cuisine and share her life stories, while “In Good Hands” is an interactive performance of music and storytelling, exploring secrets, trust and human needs. “Body Code: Post-colonial Blue Birds”, performed by contemporary dancers from Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan, depicts the colonial history of the three territories through body language.

“Antiwords”, presented by two actresses in oversized masks, will appeal to the audience with its absurdly humorous portrayal of drunken characters. The world-acclaimed performance features a voice- over in Czech with subtitles in English and Chinese.

Tickets for the shows of the 16th Macau City Fringe Festival are available for purchase through Macau Ticketing Network outlets. Some tickets remain for the shows to be staged this weekend.


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