A former Hong Kong stock exchange executive and a consultant were acquitted on Friday of corruption charges, dealing a blow to the financial regulator’s attempt to crack down on white-collar malfeasance in the world’s fourth-largest capital market.
Judge Gary Lam Kar-yan ruled that financial consultant Richard Lum Chor-wah and Eugene Yeoh Kim-loong, the former co-head of the initial public offering vetting team at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX), were not guilty.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) charged the pair after their investigation found that Lum, 61, had paid a total of HK$9.15 million (US$1.18 million) in bribes to Yeoh, 44, to solicit his support in approving 12 listings between 2015 and 2019. Lum transferred the money to Hao Yuanyan, Yeoh’s wife, the ICAC said.
Both went free following the hearing at the District Court in Tsuen Wan.
Eugene Yeoh Kim-loong, the former co-head of the initial public offering vetting team at HKEX, leaves the Tsuen Wan Law Courts Building on Friday. Photo: Jonathan Wong
The duo was arrested in June 2019 and were charged for corruption and offering advantages to a public servant in March last year. Although HKEX is a public company, it also wears a different hat as a frontline regulator for listed companies. Its staff, therefore, are treated as public servants under the city’s anti-corruption law.
Lum was also charged with helping Yeoh get a Hong Kong Jockey Club racing membership in exchange for approvals of new listings.
The judge said in his verdict that the two defendants were not guilty of the corruption charges as the prosecutors could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the funds deposited by Lum into the bank account of Yeoh’s wife was bribe money.
The prosecutor also failed to prove Yeoh had prior knowledge that Lum would be involved in the 12 IPOs handled by him.
The earliest of the 12 IPOs included interior-design company LC Group Holdings in September 2015, since renamed as Hope Life International Holdings, and construction firm Anchorstone Holdings in July 2018, the court heard earlier.
The other 10 involved smaller companies between 2016 and 2019, such as restaurant operators Classified Group and CBK Holdings, and sewing-thread maker Shen You Holdings. The last of the batch was WMCH, a Singapore-based engineering consultancy, which was listed in November 2019.
The ICAC headquarters in North Point. Photo: Xinhua
Yeoh quit HKEX in May 2019 after an internal investigation triggered by an anonymous letter, in which it was alleged that he had accepted advantages in approving new stock listings, the prosecutor said during the hearing.
The stock exchange’s internal investigation found Yeoh had erased his telephone and email records on a daily basis, and failed to disclose the bank transactions and the Jockey Club deal.
The bourse operator’s then-head of listing David Graham deemed Yeoh unfit for his role and urged him to resign.Internet Explorer Channel Network