A senior executive of real estate giant China Evergrande has appeared in court charged with attempting to rape a woman in a case linked to a hotpot dinner that was attended by three senior Hong Kong officials and violated Covid-19 rules.
Chen Fen, 37, is accused of trying to assault the woman at her Happy Valley flat on March 2. He stood before Eastern Court on Monday when lawyers asked for a preliminary inquiry to be held to examine the strength of the prosecution case ahead of its transfer to the High Court.
Chen will return to the lower court on July 30 before Principal Magistrate Peter Law Tak-chuen to fix a date for the inquiry.
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The defendant, who has been placed on a HK$100,000 (US$13,000) bond, is required to stay in Hong Kong and report to police twice a week. The maximum penalty for attempted rape is life imprisonment.
Chen was represented on Monday by Anna Lai Yuen-kee SC, former deputy director of public prosecutions, and barristers Jonathan Kwan and Cindy Kong Siu-ching.
China Evergrande could not be reached for comment on recent reports that suggested Chen was no longer a serving staff member.
A defence lawyer said outside court that barrister Thomas Nip Tin-lok, son of Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, was not on Chen’s team of lawyers and had not offered any legal advice to his client.
Patrick Nip earlier said he had reported his son’s potential involvement in the case to city leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, adding he “cannot see any so-called conflict of interest”.
A police investigation following Chen’s arrest discovered that Commissioner of Customs and Excise Hermes Tang Yi-hoi, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Undersecretary for Security Sonny Au Chi-kwong had met Chen and the unidentified woman at a luxury clubhouse in Wan Chai on March 2.
The dinner, reportedly held at the Causeway Centre on Harbour Road, was said to have been attended by nine guests, exceeding the four-person limit on public gatherings in place for the Covid-19 crisis. All attendees were fined HK$5,000. The identity of the other guests remains unknown.
The event only came to light this month, leading the trio to admit they had broken social-distancing rules and issue apologies.
This article Top executive of property giant China Evergrande appears in Hong Kong court charged with attempted rape first appeared on South China Morning Post