January 11, 2024
HONG KONG – Former media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying transferred HK$1.75 million ($233,776) to former US deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in six installments, and he made transactions of HK$15 million to local activists via a company owned by him, the city’s court was told on Wednesday, the ninth day of Lai’s trial for allegedly breaching the National Security Law for Hong Kong.
The transactions revealed by prosecutors at West Kowloon Court were in addition to the up to HK$100 million Lai donated to the city’s activists and another HK$5 million for anti-China campaigns, unveiled in an earlier court hearing on Jan 4.
The case was adjourned until Tuesday to allow the prosecution and the defense to prepare for arguments over whether the testimony of an expert witness should be admissible in court.
In reading out a 36-page written testimony by the police after looking into the bank records of those involved in the case, the prosecution said Lai transferred HK$15 million via his Canadian company LAIS Hotel Properties, including HK$7.99 million for the now-dissolved Civic Party, HK$5 million for the Democratic Party, HK$1 million for the Labour Party and HK$380,000 for separatist Au Nok-hin.
He also transferred HK$3.5 million to retired Catholic cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun in two installments.
Lai’s trial, which began on Dec 18, is expected to last about 80 days.
The former media tycoon faces four charges in this trial.
At the prosecution’s request, a collusion charge against Lai has been left on court file. The court will deal with the three charges that Lai denied on Jan 2.
Two of the charges — conspiracy to print, publish, sell, offer for sale, distribute, display or reproduce seditious publications, and conspiracy to collude with external forces to endanger national security — were brought against him and three Apple Daily-related companies.
Lai also faces one count of conspiracy to collude with external forces to endanger national security.
Earlier on Jan 4, the court was told that beginning in 2013, Lai transferred over HK$118 million in 86 transactions to his personal assistant, Mark Simon, who was also a former senior executive of Next Digital and Apple Daily.
Through Simon, HK$93 million went to the city’s opposition groups and activists. In addition, HK$5 million was loaned to an international campaign that bought advertising on media outlets to solicit foreign forces to pressure the Chinese authority and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, prosecutors said.
Lai also instructed Simon, to donate about $25,000 to Hong Kong Watch — a London-based organization that received an official warning from the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Department for publishing content that may violate the NSL.
The police’s testimony mentioned that the bank accounts of a core member of separatism group “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” Andy Li Yu-hin, had 34 transactions and 26 withdrawals. Li obtained HK$6.15 million through a first crowdfunding campaign in June 2019. In a second round crowdfunding in August that year, Li received 300,000 pounds ($381,894) from Apple Daily’s columnist Jack Henry Hazlewood and HK$500,000 from Simon in November.
The separatism group initiated a global campaign to beg foreign forces to sanction and pressure Chinese authorities and the SAR government over the NSL.
Li has pleaded guilty to conspiring to collude with foreign forces to endanger national safety in a separate trial and is awaiting sentencing.