Who would imagine some years ago that the region’s former top prosecutor, Ho Chio Meng, would be convicted and sentenced to 21 years in jail, leaving the court pleading for an appeal? However unlikely it may have seemed, that is precisely what happened on Friday.
Moreover, the Court of Final Appeal has ruled that Ho shall pay around MOP75 million, by himself or with others, to the Office of the Prosecutor General and around MOP12 million of his assets will be reverted to the administration.
Right after judge Song Man Lei announced the final verdict, Ho said, “this is injustice. […] I did not receive any money, I will appeal. […]”
Presiding judge Sam Hou Fai ordered the officers of the court to, “take him out” immediately after Ho started shouting to the court’s audience. While being carried out of the court by three police officers, Ho kept repeating the above sentences out loud.
Amid the 1,500 crimes which the Public Prosecutions Office (MP) accused him of, Ho was declared innocent of approximately 80 accusations.
However, Song stated in the beginning that, “a large part of the accusations are factual.” Song even listed some of the reasons regarding the court’s ruling on Ho’s crimes.
Before the court eventually announced the verdict, Song noted that, according to the law, courts have the power to replace a suspect’s sentence by fines.
However, the judge explained that the court chose to sentence Ho to jail.
“This case is severely serious, the period when the crimes took place is long, and there are many crimes,” enumerated Song, who addressed Ho by telling him that he had engaged in, “intentionally illegal behaviors.”
“Especially the fact that he created a criminal group, conducted money laundering schemes, frauds, […] the consequences are serious, […] MP suffered economical losses, […] and it [Ho’s behavior] has affected a fair competition environment, the society’s order and fairness, and has caused negative influences over the MP’s image.”
“Ho has worked for the judiciary system for many years, he should have known the laws and obeyed them. […] Ho ignored the existence and requirements of the laws. […] Ho used his position to seek for profits.”
Song further said that Ho “gained great economical profits” from companies that were granted with MP’s contracts. “[Ho] is 61 years old, has a good personality, family, social condition, […] yet does not have a slice of regret,” Song stated.
In total, Ho was found guilty of more than 1,000 crimes, including several cases of fraud, organizing criminal groups, false declarations of property ownership (together with his wife), unclear declaration of income and sharing illegal benefits.
Regarding the details behind the sanctions for each crime Ho committed, he was sentenced to between five months and a maximum of 13 years and six months, the latter for having established criminal groups.
According to Macau’s law, all individual sentences combined cannot exceed 30 years.
The court also ruled that Ho is responsible for a total of MOP75.92 million in losses in the MP.
The court’s rulings have ordered Ho to personally pay the amount of MOP18.36 million to the MP.
Moreover, the court has ordered that he, as well as Wang Xiandi (a defendant), should return MOP4.32 million to the MP, as Wang was declared guilty by the court.
Ho should also pay the MP another MOP3.32 million together with Wong Kuok Wai, Mak Im Tai, and a few other defendants who organized the companies with Ho.
Ho along with Lai Kin Ian, director of the Office of the Prosecutor General, and some other defendants, must also pay the MP MOP49.9 million. The court has instructed that the accumulated interest as of last Friday should be added to these payments.
The court has also ordered that Ho’s MOP1.18 million in unclear income needs to be transferred to the Macau SAR government, in addition to MOP12.1 million, from Ho’s income, which were not declared to the government while Ho was still occupying his previous position.
Ho served as the Prosecutor General in Macau from 1999 to 2014. Before that, he had been a Coordinator of the High Commissioner’s Office Against Corruption of Administrative Illegality.
Sister: ‘Over 10 years of work become sins?’
Lucia Ho, the elder sister of Ho Chio Meng, said “how did over 10 years of work become sins? […] I can only say that I don’t understand. […] I will not lose confidence, because the judge is in God. […] The judgment is in the heart of every Macau resident. We were together more than 30 years. My younger brother is not a person like the one they described. Our family does not have a background, does not have wealth. Everybody knows it very clearly.”
“If there is a chance of appeal, we will go to the central government.”
When asked about whether Ho had previously told Lucia Ho that he had offended any of his work colleagues, she replied by saying “no, we are always harmonious.”
“But it is weirder how come the defense [Ho’s defense team] is so weak, […] I can’t see even one piece of evidence [money] attested to have come from corruption. Even the money from our father was claimed to have come from corruption. […]”
When asked if she agrees with Ho when he says the accusation was an injustice, Lucia Ho mentioned that she “completely agrees!”
Ho’s older sister disclosed that currently she does not know about the next plan of action her family is going to take. As a Catholic person, Lucia Ho believes that God will have a plan.
Oriana Pun disappointed with verdict
Ho Chio Meng’s lawyer, Oriana Pun, said that Ho’s defense team feels disappointed with the sentence.
“We feel a little disappointed about it. [the veredict] We insisted that related facts are not sufficient to confirm the culpability of most the accusations,” Pun told the media.
“We have to see the verdict first, and research on what we can do. The Court of Final Appeal is the first trial in the case, but since the defendant has not appealed again, we do not consider the current sentence as the final one,” declared Pun.
“Appealing is the basic right granted by both the Basic Law and the United Nations law,” said Pun, adding that “if he needs, we will see what we can do for him.”
The lawyer told the media that the defense team will conduct research on the court’s ruling reference, and consider their next step.
Regarding Ho’s health condition, Pun said that due to the prison’s internal conditions, he has showed signs of a few health problems, and that he needs to see a doctor. However, the lawyer did not disclose further information.