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Day 45: March 14, 2024

The Witness: Live Update | Jimmy Lai Trial Day 45 | Chan Tsz-wah’s Email Mentioned “Mark” | Andy Li: Later Learned It Was Mark Simon

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” among other offenses. The case entered its 45th day of trial on Thursday (March 14th) at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts (acting as the High Court), with the fourth co-defendant witness, Andy Li, testifying for the second day.

On Wednesday, Andy Li testified that he met co-defendant Chan Tsz-wah, who has pleaded guilty, through Telegram in June 2019. The two discussed a plan to advertise before the G20 summit, hoping to bring Hong Kong’s “eye-catching protest scenes” and the momentum they generated to the international stage to attract global attention. Li continued, after the crowdfunding campaign ended, the transfer of funds took time, and someone needed to front the advertising costs. Chan then said he could “think of a plan” and “ask some uncles” who could provide 5 million Hong Kong dollars.

The case is presided over by High Court judges designated under the National Security Law, Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios, and Alex Lee Wan-tang. The prosecution is represented by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, and Senior Prosecuting Officer Crystal Chan Wing-sum; Jimmy Lai is represented by Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, Barrister Steven Kwan, and New Zealand Queen’s Counsel Marc Corlett with Hong Kong practicing qualifications.

16:21 Court adjourned

15:38 Li confirms he paid for ads in three South Korean newspapers

The prosecution further inquired about the advertising situation in South Korea, and the court displayed the relevant ads. Li confirmed that the advertising campaign involved three South Korean newspapers, including Hankook Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, and Dong-A Ilbo, and he paid a total of 83.25 million Korean won for the advertising fees.

The prosecution showed the G20 ad in The Times (UK), and Li confirmed that he paid £27,000 for the ad, which is about 270,000 Hong Kong dollars; for the El Mundo (Spain) ad, Li confirmed that he paid 20,000 euros, and for the Politico Europe ad, he paid 5,000 euros, both paid by him.

As for The Globe and Mail (Canada) ad, the prosecution pointed out that the related bill showed two items, approximately 75,000 Canadian dollars for the ad fee and 9,000 Canadian dollars for the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST), totaling about 84,700 Canadian dollars. Li’s bank records showed that he paid 75,000 Canadian dollars.

Li explained that since the 9,000 Canadian dollars was for the HST, he had emailed The Globe and Mail to inquire whether international clients needed to pay the HST, and they replied that it was not necessary, but they did not provide him with another bill. Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang pointed out that someone handwrote “Free HST” on the bill, and Li confirmed that he ultimately paid 75,000 Canadian dollars for the ad.

15:06 The Asahi Shimbun Receipt Shows Customer as ‘Demosisto’
Li Guesses Agnes was Responsible

The prosecution presented another version of the advertisement in The New York Times, which Li confirmed involved $36,000. They also showed an advertisement in The Asahi Shimbun for the G20, with the receipt showing an advertising fee of 7 million yen, and the customer name as ‘Demosisto.’ Li confirmed it was ‘Demosisto.’ The prosecution asked if it was the political party ‘Demosisto.’ Li said, “As far as I understand, there’s only one ‘Demosisto,'” and someone from there helped contact The Asahi Shimbun for the advertisement.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if that person was one of the TG members. Li said he didn’t know. The prosecution asked which ‘Demosisto’ member was involved in the advertising campaign. Li said he didn’t know directly, “But I guess it was Agnes Chow. I guess she’s the only one who speaks Japanese,” and he didn’t know if she was one of the TG members.

The prosecution showed Li’s related Standard Chartered Bank records and asked if he paid the 7 million yen for the advertisement. Li confirmed it was paid by him. The prosecution asked how he obtained the receipt issued to Hong Kong Demosisto. Li said he didn’t remember how the receipt was given to him, “The people responsible for finding the newspapers, when it was time to pay, would give me the bill, and this is it.”

14:52 Li Confirms Advertisements are Arranged with Real Names and Accounts

The prosecution presented an advertisement and related receipt published in Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany, involving 85,000 euros. Li confirmed it was one of the advertisements, “In the G20 campaign, there was only one German newspaper.” For The New York Times in the United States, Li confirmed the advertisement fee involved $83,700.

The prosecution pointed out that the receipt from The New York Times showed not only Li’s name but also ‘Anna Kwok.’ Li said he arranged The New York Times advertisement with TG group member Anna Kwok, “Because there were other people responsible for finding newspapers, so I think Anna Kwok also helped with finding The New York Times. As for why the final bill has two names, I’m not sure.”

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if Li used his real name to arrange The New York Times advertisement. Li agreed. Alex Lee Wan-tang further asked if other TG members also knew Li’s real name. Li said no, “Only in these bills, and when filling out official forms with newspapers, or opening an account, did I provide my real name.”

Li continued, “It’s also possible that the newspapers would know my real name, and if these documents are usually sent by email, and forwarded or CC’d to the people finding the newspapers, then they would also know.”

14:32 Prosecution Questions Li About Payment Records for The Japan Times

Regarding Li’s statement this morning that he paid 2 million yen for an advertisement in The Japan Times, “It should have been paid by my credit card, but I think I need to cross-check the account to confirm.” The prosecution showed Li the bank records of his two Standard Chartered Bank credit cards. There were no transactions of 2 million yen or an equivalent amount in Hong Kong dollars. Li said, “Then I might have remembered wrong. It might not have been my credit card.”

The prosecution further asked if that meant Li did not pay for the advertisement in The Japan Times. Li said, “I’m not sure.” The prosecution presented a receipt issued by The Japan Times, with “Save Hong Kong at G20 Campaign” as the payer, and asked Li how he obtained this receipt. Li said, “Because The Japan Times did not physically mail this receipt to me, I either received it by email, or it was given to me by T (Chan Tsz-wah). I’m not sure which.”

Upon hearing this, Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang asked if it appeared to be a physical receipt in court. Li said, “I might have received it by email and then printed it out.” The document also had the name “Debbie Chan” besides “Save Hong Kong at G20 Campaign.” Li said he was not sure who that was and reiterated that his statement did not have any related transaction records, “So it should not have been me (who paid).”

12:54 Court adjourned for lunch.

12:18 Prosecution Continues Questioning on Payment for Taiwan Apple Daily Advertisement

The prosecution continues to question Andy Li on the payment for the Apple Daily Taiwan advertisement, asking when he was notified to make the payment, before or after July 5th? Li said, “I’m not sure,” but according to the bank statement, he made the payment on July 16th. The prosecution asked if Chan Tsz-wah had mentioned when to make the payment. Li said no, “His meaning was, since he asked me to find this account, then I just went and found this account for him.”

The prosecution asked if Apple Daily Taiwan had asked him to make the payment before July 5th. Li said Apple Daily Taiwan had sent an email mentioning, “Hi Andy, the payment details are as follows, please notify me after the transfer.” Li indicated that Chan Tsz-wah handled the related payment, so he forwarded the email to “T (Chan Tsz-wah)’s side.” The prosecution also asked if Li knew this was an “overdue” payment. Li said, “I didn’t pay attention to this matter,” and Apple Daily Taiwan did not “chase the payment.”

The prosecution showed a registered letter sent by Apple Daily Taiwan to Li, who said he didn’t remember the date of receipt. Li recalled that when he received the letter, he mistakenly thought it was a receipt, “meaning T’s side had found it, so the company sent a receipt back, because the advertisement client registered on the advertisement commission form was me and my address, my first instinct was that someone sent a receipt back to me.”

He continued, the content of the letter mentioned “payment date,” “so it could be the day you’ve already paid, I didn’t notice you have to pay on this day,” reiterating that at the time he mistakenly thought the letter was a receipt for payment, “The one earlier (the letter) actually asked me to pay, I didn’t know at the time, so I thought T’s (Chan Tsz-wah) side had already paid the amount.”

11:38 Short Break

10:44 Court Shows Some Advertisement Receipts, Li Confirms He Made the Payments

The prosecution showed advertisements in various newspapers published on June 28, 2019, for the G20 open letter, including The Japan Times. Li confirmed it was one of the advertisements for the campaign, “The Japan Times is a newspaper that would be distributed at the G20 venue in 2019.” The prosecution showed a payment receipt of 2 million yen, Li said he remembered making the payment, “It should be my credit card (payment), but I think I need to cross-check the account to confirm.”

The prosecution showed an advertisement in the Taiwan Apple Daily with the slogan “Hong Kong and Taiwan Walk Together, Share the Same Fate” Li confirmed it was one of the advertisements. The prosecution showed an “Advertisement Commission Form,” indicating the advertiser was Andy Li, with his signature, payment method as “Shanghai Commercial Bank,” with a note “6/28 A1 half-page horizontal,” and the payment date as July 5, 2019. Li confirmed, saying the advertisement cost was 1.2 million New Taiwan dollars.

The prosecution then showed a payment notice from Standard Chartered Bank, showing that Li exchanged 1.2 million New Taiwan dollars for Hong Kong dollars, about 300,000 Hong Kong dollars, on July 15, 2019, Li confirmed it was used to “settle the account” with Apple Daily Taiwan.

Judge Alex Lee Wan-tang noted, the advertisement was published on June 28, 2019, and the payment date should be July 5, 2019, according to the document, but Li made the payment on July 15, 2019, 10 days after the original payment date? Li explained that there were members responsible for the advertisement, such as designing the advertisement, contacting the newspaper, and he was responsible for crowdfunding, and also filled out the aforementioned Apple Daily Taiwan advertisement form and received payment instructions.

Andy Li continued, Chan Tsz-wah said “his side would handle it, meaning the payment matters for Apple Daily Taiwan , his side would take care of,” so after filling out the form, he no longer cared about the advertisement matters for Apple Daily Taiwan, “Later when the advertisement was published, I assumed T’s (Chan Tsz-wah) side had taken care of the payment.” However, in July, Chan told him, “You better find Apple Daily’s money,” so in the end, Li made the payment.

10:10 Chan Tsz-wah’s Email Mentioned “Mark” – Li: Later Found Out It Was Mark Simon

Andy Li testified for the second day, with Anthony Chau Tin-hang from the prosecution leading the questioning. The prosecution presented an email sent from Terrie Lam of The Washington Post to “T,” who is Chan Tsz-wah, on July 9, 2019, with the subject “Payment slip.” The email mentioned, “Hi, This was the payment slip received from Mark’s end. I will send through The Washington Post paid invoice statement upon received from HQ.”

Li explained that this was an email forwarded to him by Chan Tsz-wah from The Washington Post, “because I need to keep the record, need the payment slip as a document, which is what I mentioned yesterday, to keep the remittance advice or payment slip document.”

When asked who “Mark” in the email was, Li said he did not know at the time but later found out it was Mark Simon. The two were introduced by Chan Tsz-wah before September 2019. Li briefly testified in English, saying, “He introduced me to Mark Simon in a later stage.” Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping pointed out that he had chosen to testify in Chinese earlier and should not answer in English. If there were any translation issues, he should notify the interpreter.

10:04 Court in Session

The Witness

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