December 12, 2022
BEIJING – Hong Kong activist Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper, was sentenced to five years and nine months’ imprisonment and fined HK$2 million ($256,000) on Saturday over two fraud charges linked to violation of lease conditions.
The District Court also disqualified Lai from serving in the management of a company for eight years. He also faces a separate trial on three national security charges.
Wong Wai-keung, who was the administrative director of Apple Daily’s parent company Next Digital, was jailed for 21 months on the same fraud charges.
Lai had breached the building’s release term for 17 years and gained intangible benefits from the consultancy firm’s operations, said Judge Chan Kwong-chi
Lai and Wong were found to have breached the terms of lease for Apple Daily’s headquarters building in Tseung Kwan O. They concealed the operations of consultancy firm Dico Consultants, which was also run by Lai at the building, and had lied to the landlord, Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation.
The lease specified that the building could only be used for printing and publishing newspapers or magazines.
Handing down the ruling, Judge Chan Kwong-chi said Lai had breached the building’s release term for 17 years and gained intangible benefits from the consultancy firm’s operations.
The judge described the whole plan as well plotted. Lai understood that Dico must apply for a license from HKSTP to operate at Apple Daily’s office. He did not do so as he knew that Dico did not meet the licensing conditions, Chan said.
As for Wong, the judge said although the defendant claimed he was simply following Lai’s instructions and had no decision-making power, he had been personally involved in the administration of the Apple Daily building since 2016, and had made many applications to HKSTP for the license and to renew it. Wong was fully aware of Dico’s existence and had helped Lai to commit the offense, the judge said.