Thomas and Raymond Kwok, the billionaire brothers and real estate developers charged in one of Hong Kong's biggest corruption cases, pleaded not guilty Friday.
The brothers, co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties, were accused by prosecutors last April of participating in a decade-long bribery scheme in which they provided $4.5 million in interest-free loans and other benefits to a longtime senior bureaucrat, Rafael Hui, who was Hong Kong's chief secretary and head of civil service from 2005 to 2007, in exchange for undisclosed favors.
Hui and two other defendants -- Sun Hung Kai executive Thomas Chan and Francis Kwan, a former senior officer at the Hong Kong Exchange -- were also charged with participating in the graft scheme.
At a pre-trial hearing held Friday at Hong Kong's Eastern Magistrate's Court, all of the defendants denied the charges against them.
The Kwoks are among Hong Kong's wealthiest tycoons. Forbes currently estimates their combined wealth at $20 billion. So it's hardly surprising that they can hire some of the best lawyers around.
Those representing Raymond Kwok and three non-Kwok defendants could not be identified at press time, but Thomas Kwok's team is being led by solicitors Martin Rogers of Clifford Chance and Colin Cohen of Boase Cohen & Collins. They are in turn instructing four barristers, three of whom -- Lawrence Lok, Selwyn Yu and Graham Harris -- are Hong Kong Senior Counsels, with the fourth being Clare Montgomery QC of London's Matrix Chambers. She is perhaps best known for defending former Chilean dictator August Pinochet before the British House of Lords.
No trial date has yet been set for the case, which has been referred to the Court of First Instance. The defendants are all free on bail.