Hong Kong tycoons go on trial in corruption case

image copyrightReuters
image captionRaymond Kwok, left, and Thomas Kwok are ranked fourth on the Forbes Hong Kong 2014 rich list

Two billionaire property developers have gone on trial in Hong Kong in the city's biggest ever corruption case.

Thomas and Raymond Kwok are accused of giving bribes in exchange for information on land sales between 2005 and 2007.

Also on trial are former Hong Kong chief secretary Rafael Hui and senior businessmen Thomas Chan Kui-yuen and Francis Kwan Hung-sang.

All five, arrested in March 2012, have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Kwok brothers head Sun Hung Kai Properties, Asia's most valuable estate agency.

BBC Hong Kong correspondent Juliana Liu says it is the most high-profile corruption case the city has ever seen and comes at a time of heightened attention into the perceived cosy ties between the government and property tycoons.

Thomas and Raymond Kwok smiled as they arrived at Hong Kong's High Court, walking past dozens of photographers who flanked the main entrance.

As proceedings began, the judge said that the jury would not be sworn in until early next week.

The five are charged with various offences related to payments and unsecured loans amounting to HK$34m ($4.38m; £2.84m).

image copyrightAFP
image captionRafael Hui is alleged to have received rent-free use of luxury apartments

Thomas Chan Kui-yuen is a director of Sun Hung Kai and Francis Kwan Hung-sang is the former non-executive director of New Environmental Energy Holdings, an investment company.

The Department of Justice indictment said Mr Hui, 66, faced eight charges, some of which related to misconduct in being "favourably disposed to Sun Hung Kai Properties... and Thomas Kwok and Raymond Kwok" while in office, in return for payments.

Other charges against Mr Hui relate to rent-free use of luxury apartments and acceptance of unsecured loans, the document says.

He is the highest-ranking former official ever to face trial in Hong Kong.

Thomas Kwok, 62, faces three charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office while his younger brother, Raymond, 60, is charged with four offences including furnishing false information.

Prominent government and business figures are among more than 80 prosecution witnesses listed for the trial.

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