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Sunday, Sep 25, 2022

30 arrested as bribery scandal rocks runway project

30 arrested as bribery scandal rocks runway project

Thirty engineers and contractors, including four Airport Authority managers, were arrested yesterday by anti-graft officers for alleged corruption over the multibillion-dollar third runway project.
The 27 men and three women, aged between 27 and 77, were released on Independent Commission Against Corruption bail later yesterday.

An ICAC spokesman said the arrests came after officers found several million Hong Kong dollars in a bank account of an Airport Authority principal manager.

He was among a number of engineering professionals - including a general manager, a senior manager and a senior project inspector - employed by the Airport Authority on short-term contracts to manage the third runway project when construction commenced in 2016.

They were responsible for assisting in managing related construction and material supply contracts as well as handling related arrangements such as organizing the supply of project materials and the release of project funding.

According to the ICAC allegations, inquiries revealed that bribery payments amounting to millions of Hong Kong dollars were deposited into several banks accounts of the arrested principal manager over the past few years.

He and the three other airport officials were allegedly bribed by contractors while they were in restaurants, nightclubs and other entertainment and leisure venues.

Also during the operation, ICAC officers searched the suspects' homes and offices and seized suspected bribery-linked cash, luxury watches, fine wines and gold coins.

The investigation - codenamed "Blizzard" - started after a complaint that Airport Authority staff were accepting advantages by abusing their power in the construction project.

It is alleged family members of the principal manager helped deposit some of the corrupt payments.

Among the 30 arrested were 26 contractors and subcontractors over corrupt dealings in the awarding of contracts and related administrative arrangements.

But ICAC investigators did not find any issues involving the quality of work or specifications of construction materials.

This is not the first corruption-related case involving the third runway project.

In April, a then-site team leader of MLife Engineering, a subcontractor of the third runway project, was convicted at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts for soliciting and accepting illegal rebates totaling over HK$17,400 from three construction workers.

An ICAC investigation found the team leader solicited an illegal rebate of HK$200 per working day between July 2020 and January 2021 from the three workers.

He was found guilty of two counts of accepting an advantage and one count of conspiracy for an agent to accept advantages.

Hong Kong opened its third runway last month, part of a HK$141.5 billion project that added 650 hectares to the footprint of the airport.

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