ExCo member denies latest charge

Updated: 2012-11-02 06:51

By Ming Yeung(HK Edition)

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Executive Council (ExCo) member Franklin Lam Fan-keung has denied a fresh accusation that he offered illegal rebates to his property agent.

The former property analyst at UBS investment bank sold two Casa Bella flats in Mid-Levels on Sept 20 and Oct 10, not long before the government introduced strong measures to restrict speculation by non-local investors in the residential property market. There is no evidence showing Lam was acting on "insider information" when he put his properties up for sale in June, Lam said he was unaware of the government's intention to introduce the measures on October 26. He also did not attend the ExCo session at which the changes were introduced.

Speaking on a Commercial Radio program on Thursday, Lam said he clarified that he had given his property agent the standard 1 percent as his commission, and the profits above the bottom price would be donated to a charitable organization.

The explanation contradicted his statement on Wednesday that profits above the bottom line price would be given to the agent. Lam blamed the confusion on a miscommunication with his wife. He said the couple agreed to give money to Centaline Charity Fund, not to Centaline Property agency.

"She said 'yeah, everything will go to Centaline'. And of course, I would think that it must be the Centaline agency," Lam explained. "In the actual stand-up yesterday (Wednesday) in RTHK, I did say that it's the agency, until I saw the thing and clarified with my wife last night, that it's not Centaline agency, so I am rectifying that this morning."

Centaline Property issued a press release on Thursday evening saying that Lam had suggested the company pocket any difference between his asking price and the eventual sale price but the company said it declined the offer.

According to Lam's provisional agreement, the agency will receive HK$99,500 as commission - 1 percent of price of the house, that sold at HK$9,950,000. But Centaline has not yet received the money.

Centaline Charity Fund stated that it will not accept the difference in price donated by Lam.

In order to remain above suspicion, Lam said he had given an undertaking to the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, stating he would sell only 10 percent of his properties over his five-year tenure in the ExCo, even though ExCo has no such requirement. He said the family needed cash, because his salary from ExCo will be donated.

"If I wanted to earn more money at the climax of the market, I would have sold 40-50 percent of my properties, not just 10 percent," he insisted.

He still has two other flats up for sale that he said he had put on the market at the end of June.

The CE confirmed that he had not consulted Franklin Lam before the government introduced dual curbs on the property market.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah reiterated that Lam wasn't told of the new measure in advance, because duty policies would not be discussed with non-official ExCo members.

ExCo convener Lam Woon-kwong said members were briefed on the stamp duty increase just three hours before a public announcement.

Lam Cheuk-ting from the Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) on Wednesday, demanding a probe into whether Lam breached the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

Lam said he would maintain an open attitude to ICAC's investigation.


(HK Edition 11/02/2012 page1)