Macau’s biggest ever corruption trial concludes with record long jail sentence

The Court of Final Appeal of Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) has sentenced former SAR Secretary for Public Works and Transport Ao Man Long to 27 years in jail. The 51-year-old official is guilty of 57 of the 76 charges, which include corruption, money laundering, abuse of power and related crimes.

In his over two-hour long readout of a summary of the verdict on Wednesday, TUI President Sam Hou Fai said in light of Ao’s bribery cases and related illicit activities of money laundering, the former secretary turned his official duty into „a money collecting machine“, impairing public interest for his own benefit, therefore, his criminal behavior is „predatory“ and „insatiably greedy“.

„The court has ruled (on the case) in accordance with the law, I think it is very just,“ said Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau Wah after being notified of the verdict on Wednesday.

According to the verdict, the 51-year-old is guilty of 57 of the 76 charges, which include 41 counts of corruption, 30 counts of money laundering, two counts of abuse of power, and one count each of false statement, unexplained wealth and illicit business activities.

In addition, the court also ruled that Ao’s illicitly acquired assets, worth USD 31.6 million and some of his properties, such as a villa in London Ao reportedly bought for five million pounds several years ago, be confiscated by the SAR government.

Ao’s lawyer Nuno Simoes, although admitting the trial is just, said the sentence was still too heavy for his client and will meet with Ao and decide on appealing in the next few days. But the Court of Final Appeal has announced that Macao’s current judicial system does not provide for the possibility of an appeal against any of its sentences.

Ao Man Long is the highest official ever charged with corruption in the SAR. Due to his seniority, Ao was tried by a three-judge panel at the Court of Final Appeal. Arrested in December, 2006, Ao’s trial began in November 2007 and concluded about a month later at the Court of Final Appeal, in which some 100 witnesses were called in by the attorney general.

He was accused of amassing a personal fortune of more than USD 100 million dollars between 2002 and 2006 by taking kickbacks for at least 41 public works and private development projects, including casino projects. The government should „establish a more effective monitoring system to prevent corruption,“ said Ng Kwok Cheung, a member of the SAR’s Legislative Assembly.

„Public projects with investment exceeding USD 5 million should be submitted to the Legislative Assembly for examination and approval,“ he proposed, adding that the land law should also be revised to avoid any fraudulence in the process of land granting.

Macao’s Commission against Corruption said in a press statement released on Wednesday that the verdict delivered by the court reflects the seriousness of the crimes committed by Ao and the punishment he deserves, and the commission will continue investigation on other cases involving Ao.

Meanwhile, the trial of Ao’s four family members, including Ao’s father, Ao Veng Kong, Ao’s wife Chan Meng Ieng, brother Ao Man Fu and his sister-in-law Ao Chan Wa Choi, and some „business associates“ are also underway at the Court of First Instance.

The family members are charged with six to 14 counts of money laundering activities after allegedly receiving bribes from businessmen Ho Meng Fai, Chan Tong Sang and Frederico Nolasco da Silva.

The prosecutor alleged that the money was deposited in off- shore shell companies when Ao Man Long was still serving as the secretary for transport and public works and before he was detained by the Commission against Corruption on December 6, 2006.