Appeal significantly reduces penalties for Ao’s family

Friday, October 31, 2008
Issue 513, Page 1 & 3
Word count: 924
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Court of Second Instance (TSI) yesterday overturned most of the original verdicts given to Ao Man Long’s family and businessman Frederico Nolasco da Silva who were accused of money laundering and bribery early this year, and also handed down much lighter penalties to the appellants.

The disgraced former transport and public works secretary Ao Man Long’s brother, Ao Man Fu, was sentenced five years in jail instead of 18 years; sister-in-law, Ao Chan Wa Choi, got four years and six months instead of 13 years; and father, Ao Veng Kong, now has to serve four years in prison instead of 10 years.

However, Ao Man Fu and Ao Chan Wai Choi could be released almost two years earlier as they had already been taken into custody at the Macao Prison since December 2006.

As well, Frederico Nolasco, the shareholder of CSR who was convicted of two counts of money laundering and three counts of bribery, had his sentence cut by four years to six years and also had the 30 million pataca indemnity to the SAR government abolished by the TSI.

Chan Tong Sang, the general manager of Chon Tit (Macau) Ltd, who was given by the Court of First Instance (TJB) a seven year imprisonment and a fine of 20 million patacas to the SAR government after having been found guilty of one count of money laundering and four counts of bribery, will now have to serve five years and three months in jail and also without needing to pay the indemnity.

Yesterday’s second hearing of the appeals that began on October 28 did not see the presence of any of the appellants.

According to Jose Maria Dias Azedo, one of the three judges in charge of the appeals, the significantly reduced penalties for Ao Man Long’s family were attributed to the numbers of counts of money laundering they should have been accused of.

Ao Man Fu were found guilty of eight counts of money laundering, Ao Chan Wa Choi with five counts and Ao Veng Kong with three counts in June this year at the TJB.

However, Azedo told the court yesterday that the defendants’ multiple acts of money laundering should be seen as a “one and continuous process” carried out for Ao Man Long’s plan and thus they should have been convicted of respectively one count of money laundering.

The judge also said that Ao Man Fu played a “significant role” in the whole process, while Ao Chan Wa Choi was mostly instructed by her husband Ao Man Fu, and Ao Veng Kong was “old” and might have his decisions affected by the relationship with his son Ao Man Long, the TSI decided to change the years of jail sentences originally handed down by the TJB.

Pedro Leal, the defence lawyer of the family, told reporters after the hearing that he was “happy” about the revised penalties for his clients, but was still concerned about Ao Veng Kong’s health and whether he could stand the next four years being jailed.

Leal also said that the verdicts yesterday were “fair”, adding the results gave him “more confidence” in another appeal later relating to the second trial of Ao Man Long’s family and Tang Kim Man, the owner of Tong Kei Engineering and Construction Ltd.

The second trial began in May this year at the TJB in which Ao Veng Kong was the only member of Ao’s family having been found guilty of money laundering.

On the other hand, Frederico Nolasco da Silva, who said his acts should not constitute three counts of bribery, was denied by the TSI as they said they “cannot see any external factors that can possibly reduce the penalty”, adding they could not alter the TJB’s verdicts by solely looking at the appellant’s statements.

However, the TSI ruled that Nolasco only committed one count of money laundering and considered that “he is married and with a mother and a wife needing to be supported”, as well as the fact that he had given a partial confession in the court, so a lighter jail sentence was handed down to the businessman yesterday.

In addition, as the TSI said the losses which Nolasco’s offences might have caused to the SAR government could not be “precisely measured”, the 30 million pataca compensation was suspended but the government could try to claim back the money by filing an individual civil lawsuit in the future.

Yet Nolasco remained to be required to pay the SAR government 46.431 million patacas which was the amount of bribes he gave Ao Man Long in return for government contracts to CSR.

Meanwhile, Chan Tong Sang from Chon Tit building contractor company, successfully had three of his four counts of money laundering charges occurring between September 2002 and December 2003 withdrawn as the TSI agreed that they had already expired their two-year statute of limitations.

However, Azedo told the court Chan “directly and intentionally” committed the offences and did not collaborate with the judicial authorities, and thus his jail sentence was cut from seven years to five years and three months, a reduction smaller than that for the other appellants.

The TSI also ruled that Chan did not need to pay the 20 million pataca compensation to the government.

On the other hand, the TSI decided to release the bank accounts seized from San Meng Fai Construction and Engineering Company and rejected the appeal filed by the owner Ho Meng Fai as he was not yet formally notified of his sentences given by the TJB in June.

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