An executive for a Hong Kong taxi drivers’ association has been convicted of conspiring with his younger sister and son to bribe 36 people to vote for a pro-establishment candidate in the 2016 Legislative Council elections.
Lui Ah-fook, a 47-year-old garage owner who sat on the executive committee of the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association, admitted distributing HK$1,000 to each of the 36 – including to himself and his two family members – in exchange for using their personal data to apply for membership to a professional body that would give them votes in the information technology constituency, the District Court heard on Wednesday. The original source of the money for the bribes remains unknown.
The aim was for the group to then back tech executive and Legco hopeful Eric Yeung Chuen-sing, who was seeking to topple incumbent opposition lawmaker Charles Mok, of the Professionals Guild group. Mok ultimately won the race, with 6,253 votes to Yeung’s 3,425.
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Lui pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to engage in corrupt conduct at an election by offering an advantage to others. He was formally convicted on Wednesday after agreeing to the prosecution’s case. His sister, accounting clerk Lui Wai-fong, 41, and his son, student Lui King-yin, 24, also pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Lui Ah-fook and his sister’s brother-in-law, construction worker Chan Ki-nam, 50, also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of engaging in corrupt conduct at an election by accepting an advantage.
Judge Katherine Lo Kit-yee allowed all four defendants to remain out on bail until the mitigation hearing on August 26.
The trial of eight more co-defendants, who have pleaded not guilty to a total of nine bribery-related charges, will open on Thursday. Two other sisters of Lui, also accused of accepting bribes, were released after prosecutors agreed to drop the allegations.
The court heard that in April 2016, Lui invited his three sisters to register with the Hong Kong chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) using forged qualifications with the express purpose of buying their votes.
Lui’s sister and son later invited their relatives and friends to join the scheme via telephone messages, with the latter demanding a commission of HK$150 for every application made via him.
The personal details of the 36 participants were sent to a clerk for the taxi association, who then applied for IEEE memberships on their behalf by falsely claiming that all applicants held IT-related degrees and had at least eight years’ professional experience in either transport or communications.
The claims also applied to Lui King-yin, who was only a Form Six student and had just completed his university entrance exams at the time.
All the participants were paid the HK$1,000 on May 21, 2016 after applying with election authorities to vote in the IT constituency. They were later instructed to vote for Yeung, or “the one who is not Charles Mok”.
The next year, the Independent Commission Against Corruption arrested the four defendants who later pleaded guilty.
Under caution, Lui Wai-fong confessed to bribing her relatives, describing her actions as “political vote-planting”, while Chan admitted accepting the offer simply for the money.
The identity of the mastermind of the conspiracy remains unknown.
Offering and accepting bribes in an election is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$500,000 (US$64,408) fine under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance.