Who would imagine some years ago that the region’s former top prosecutor, Ho Chio Meng, would be arrested in February 2016 and later sentenced to 21 years in jail, leaving the court pleading for an appeal? However unlikely it may have seemed, that is precisely what happened in July this year.
In addition to prison time, the Court of Final Appeal (TUI) ruled that Ho should pay around MOP75 million, either on his own or with others, to the Office of the Prosecutor General, and that around MOP12 million of his assets would be handed over to the administration.
Right after Judge Song Man Lei announced the final verdict, Ho said, “this is an injustice. […] I did not receive any money, I will appeal.”
However, Ho’s attempt to appeal was summarily rejected. The TUI president stated in September that the decision was final. This meant that Ho was sentenced without any right of appeal, in a situation that breaches fundamental rights inscribed in the Basic Law, according to many lawyers. This was one of the most recent episodes of similar situations.
First of many perplexing aspects of the case was the number of crimes Ho was accused of by the Public Prosecutions Office: no less than 1,536 crimes (Ho was not found guilty of approximately 80 of these charges). Lawyer Oriana Pun stepped in as defense lawyer.
A few days after the Ho’s sentence was read, six defendants related to this case of the city’s top former prosecutor were also convicted by the Court of First Instance. Ho’s wife, brother and other relatives were among the individuals found guilty.
The prosecution argued repeatedly that Ho’s case was evidence of the principle that every person is equal before the law, and the foundations of the rule of law shall not be shaken.
But, doubts remain; after the sentence was read, Oriana Pun, told the media that the evidence presented by the prosecution was “not sufficient to confirm the culpability of most the accusations.” She also claimed that “appealing is a basic right.”