Hong Kong’s anti-graft watchdog has charged 23 people for allegedly offering and accepting bribes totalling more than HK$6.5 million in relation to building renovation contracts valued at around HK$520 million.

ICAC Grace Yee Bill Ng
ICAC Principal Investigator Grace Yee (left) and ICAC Chief Investigator Bill Ng. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Thursday made its largest prosecution to date in relation to building management and maintenance by pressing charges against 21 men and two women aged between 38 and 73.

The watchdog revealed on Friday that the group faces a total of 11 charges, with eight counts of conspiracy to offer an advantage to an agent and one count of conspiracy for an agent to accept an advantage. They also stand accused of committing two counts of conspiring to defraud.

Twelve of the defendants were middlemen and five were project contractors. Other arrestees were three members of an owners’ committee, two property management company employees and a project consultant.

According to the ICAC, middlemen Chong, Lam and To – described as “backbone members” of the corruption syndicate – conspired with other middlemen and project contractors in the building management industry to extend bribes to members of the owners’ committee.

ICAC Grace Yee Bill Ng
ICAC Principal Investigator Grace Yee (left) and ICAC Chief Investigator Bill Ng. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

They aimed to meddle in the tendering process of grand renovation and shaft projects, a property management contract, the supervision of a renovation project and the release of interim payments, the ICAC said.

The defendants were also said to have taken part in a conspiracy to defraud by hiking up the quotations of some minor works and barring other potential competitors from in the tendering process for a lift renovation project.

The alleged bribes, which totalled more than HK$6.5 million, stemmed from numerous maintenance projects at 10 residential and commercial buildings. They were: Hing Tat Mansion, Sun Hing Garden, Healthy Gardens, Phase V Greenvale Village of Discovery Bay, Phase I Beach Village of Discovery Bay, Wonderland Villas, Tsuen Kam Centre, Hop Yick Commercial Centre, Winning Commercial Building and Mount Parker Residences.

The watchdog said building owners should actively participate in building management and attend owners’ meetings in person. They should also join a “smart tender” scheme launched by the Urban Renewal Authority when inviting tenders, and enact other measures to lower corruption risks.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“The ICAC reminds building owners that building maintenance is a corruption prone area due to its complex procedures,” an English statement from the ICAC read.

The 23 defendants were released on bail by ICAC and the case will next be heard at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Monday.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.