'Small House King' Edward Wong charged by ICAC
Edward Wong Kwong-wing, dubbed “Small House King”, was charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption along with Yuen Long district councillor Ching Chan-ming for conspiracy to defraud the Lands Department in a span of 14 years over a Yuen Long small house estate development project.
The ICAC said its investigation found that Wong’s company, Wing Smart Construction, allegedly received over HK$1 billion over 14 years for the sale of 115 small houses in the private estate between 2005 and 2019.
Wong, 72, a solicitor who is the operator of Wing Smart, and Ching, 65, an indigenous inhabitant representative of Shui Tsiu San Tsuen, jointly face one count of conspiracy to defraud.
The pair appeared at the Eastern Magistrates’ Courts on Wednesday before magistrate Leung Ka-kie for mention. They did not enter a plea and Leung has adjourned the case to July 25 for the prosecution's further investigation and seek legal advice.
Leung granted bail for Wong and Ching of HK$500,000 and HK$200,000 respectively. They are not allowed to leave Hong Kong and need to surrender their travel documents. They are also required to reside at a stated address and to report to a police station twice a month, while they cannot approach witnesses for the prosecution.
ICAC alleged that Ching started the development of a small house estate project in Shui Tsiu San Tsuen village in Yuen Long, by purchasing “Ding Rights” from indigenous inhabitants around 1996.
According to New Territories Small House Policy, every male indigenous inhabitant of the village aged 18 or above may exercise his “Ding Right” once and apply to the Lands Department to build a small house at the village for his own occupation, but “Ding Right” is not transferable.
In March 2005, Wong’s company, Wing Smart, entered into an agreement with Ching appointing him as its trustee to jointly develop the small house project. Ching then continued to purchase more “Ding Rights” from indigenous inhabitants and arranged for them to apply for building licences to build small houses in Shui Tsiu San Tsuen.
They were accused of conspiring together and with other persons to defraud the Lands Department between May 2005 and May 2019 making false representations to induce the Director of Lands and his officers to act contrary to their public duty to grant building licences to applicants who applied for building licences to build small houses under the New Territories Small House Policy.
The ICAC said the pair had allegedly falsely represented that each of the applicants for building licences was the sole legal and registered owner of the respective lot of land located at Shui Tsiu San Tsuen, for which they were applying for building licences.
It is also alleged that the pair falsely represented that the applicants had never entered into any agreement or arrangements with any person to transfer or otherwise deal with their respective lots of land or any interest.
The applicants had never made and had no intention of making any private arrangements for their rights under the policy to be sold to another individual or a developer.
The anti-corruption watchdog also revealed that a number of small houses were built in Shui Tsiu San Tsuen and sold to members of the public at the market price ranging from HK$9 to HK$13 million each under the name of a private estate between 2005 and 2019.