Courts | IPIM: Visa applicant learned of investment criteria from Jackson Chang’s daughter

The daughter of the former Macao Trade and Investment Promotion Institute (IPIM) president became the focus of yesterday’s court hearing, as the case against Jackson Chang (also known as Cheong Chou Weng) and more than two dozen other defendants continued at the Court of First Instance.
Yesterday’s session invited another witness from the Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) to give her testimony, also in the unusual form of a PowerPoint presentation.
The CCAC was the body responsible for investigating Jackson Chang and other IPIM officials after it learned of alleged corruption, bribery and irregularities in the granting of residency permits for investors and skilled professionals. Several officials from the anti-graft authority are witnesses in the case.
Session participants and attendees spent most of yesterday watching one female investigator from the CCAC go through each slide of her presentation. Unusually, the prosecutor did not ask the witness any questions, save for some reminders not to forget to mention certain details of each slide in order for the court to better follow.
According to the witness, in 2014, Sheng Hong Fang, a defendant who was then a mainland resident, applied for Macau residency via the investment immigration program of IPIM. Sheng’s investment plan was to open a hotpot restaurant, of which she would own 40% of the shares. A second partner would own 50% of the company and a third partner would own 10%.
The equity (net assets) of Sheng in the investment project was less than 13 million patacas, an amount understood to be a threshold figure by the CCAC investigator in deciding whether to grant investment immigration approval or not.
Later, IPIM notified Sheng that her application was not approved, without mentioning that it was because Sheng’s equity was less than 13 million patacas.
Crystal Chang, the daughter of the former IPIM president, was at the time working for Ng Kuok Sao, another defendant in the case and a former immigration applicant when Jackson Chang headed the bureau.
After IPIM notified Sheng of the rejection, Ng informed his employee to contact the “president’s daughter” regarding the IPIM reply.
One of the voice recordings heard at the trial plainly confirmed that Crystal Chang later replied to inform Ng that Sheng’s equity was less than 13 million patacas. Crystal also informed Ng’s company that Sheng’s hotpot restaurant does not have significant benefits for Macau and would only hire 35 Macau residents.
The CCAC witness in yesterday’s session believed that the aforementioned details were confidential to IPIM staff.
The witness pointed to a series of WhatsApp and WeChat records, both in text and audio format, which indicated that another IPIM official and defendant, Ian Iat Chun, had directly communicated with Ng’s company regarding Sheng’s insufficient equity as well as regarding advice on how to increase the sum of the investment. The recordings show that Ng’s employees, Ian, Crystal Chang and other parties exchanged confidential information about Sheng’s case, the witness argued.
In these conversations, nicknames including “leader”, “Papa Chang” and “President” were mentioned occasionally. The witness believes that the nicknames were referring to Jackson Chang.
The witness believes that Crystal Chang learned about the 13 million patacas threshold from her father, Jackson Chang.
Jackson Chang’s lawyer asked the CCAC witness for evidence that could demonstrate that his client had ever mentioned the 13 million patacas criteria to any person. The witness acknowledged that there is no other proof except for the nicknames she mentioned.
The same lawyer also showed a document explicitly stating that, starting from November 17, 2015, IPIM increased the minimum equity requirement of investment immigration applications to 13 million patacas.
The lawyer accused the witness of not knowing when the 13 million patacas requirement had started and yet alleging that Jackson Chang had leaked sensitive information to the applicant.
In mid-2017, Shang acquired another 10% of her company’s shares, together with other assets of the same business. Her total equity exceeded 13.3 million patacas, putting her above IPIM’s threshold amount.
However, the CCAC investigation suggested that Sheng’s share acquisition might have been forged. Transfer records reveal that Sheng had made several transfers to her business partner to create the illusion that she had paid for purchasing the shares. The involved amount of money was returned to Sheng’s account on the same day.
On September 19, 2017, Sheng’s immigration application was approved, but Sheng was not yet aware of the approval.
By November 2017, Sheng, still unaware of the approval, was displeased with the progress of Ng, and decided to trust another person to help her in the process of the Macau identification application.
According to evidence disclosed during the trial, immigration applications made through an investment plan will score zero points, in terms of net asset, if the amount is below 13 million patacas. Applications will score 7 points for a sum between 13 million patacas and 20 million patacas. IPIM gives an applicant 11 points or 15 points if the asset is between 20 and 35 million patacas, or above 35 million patacas, respectively.
The trial continues today, when the same witness will further testify and will face questions from the defendants’ lawyers.

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