Hong Kong police’s national security unit on Thursday raided the private office of media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in Kwun Tong and seized documents in connection with an ongoing probe into a fraud case against him.
A team of plain-clothes officers, carrying a search warrant, arrived at the office in Millennium City in Kwun Tong at about 10.30am. They seized boxes of documents during an hour-long raid.
Lai, who was due to appear in court on Thursday afternoon alongside 25 opposition figures for charges over their roles in the banned June 4 vigil to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, was not in the office at the time of the raid. No one was arrested in the operation.
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“The raid is linked to our ongoing investigation into a fraud case in which Lai was arrested earlier this year,” a law enforcement source said.
Police didn’t even wait for the lawyers to come before they took everything away, so that’s not the rule of law
Jimmy Lai, Hong Kong media mogul
Lai said he believed officers were trying to find fault with him, adding he was unsure what documents had been seized.
He accused police of failing to display any search warrant, or wait for the arrival of his legal representatives at the office, before taking away his company’s properties.
“Police didn’t even wait for the lawyers to come before they took everything away, so that’s not the rule of law,” he said.
In August, Lai was arrested over alleged collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security and conspiracy to defraud, in the most high-profile police operation under the national security law imposed on the city by Beijing.
During the operation, Lai’s elder son, Timothy Lai Kin-yang, 42, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud. Cheung Kim-hung, the CEO of Next Digital which owns the newspaper Apple Daily , was also detained over the same offence, along with the company’s chief administrative officer Wong Wai-keung and Next Media Animation Ltd director Kith Ng Tat-kong.
The Post has learned that the allegation of fraud was related to an investigation launched after some pro-Beijing groups accused Lai of using the offices of Next Digital to provide secretarial services, which could be a breach of land-lease terms and amount to providing false information to the Lands Department to evade rent.
Mark Simon, the right-hand man of Lai, said police had snubbed his call to wait for their lawyer’s arrival.
“They took documents [and] departed before our lawyer arrived,” Simon, who was not in the city and is wanted by Hong Kong police, wrote on Twitter.
He accused the force of “trying to make civil disputes into criminal cases [and] shutting off funds Mr Lai uses to support Apple Daily.”
In the police operation in August, Lai’s younger son Ian Lai Yiu-yan and Next Digital chief operating officer and chief financial officer Royston Chow Tat-kuen were also arrested over collusion with foreign forces.
Police also detained former student activist Agnes Chow Ting and two others accused of the same crime in another swoop on the same day.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Apple Daily boss Jimmy Lai has case to answer in intimidation trial, Hong Kong court rules
- Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai among 13 opposition figures to be charged over June 4 vigil
- Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai cleared of threatening reporter from rival Hong Kong newspaper at June 4 vigil
This article Hong Kong police’s national security unit raids private office of media mogul Jimmy Lai over fraud case first appeared on South China Morning Post