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Day 46: March 15, 2024

Ming Pao: Jimmy Lai Case|Andy Li: The People Who Paid the Advertisement Fees in Advance Once Worried About ‘Check Bouncing’; First Learned Chan Tsz-wah’s Identity When Signing the Promissory Note (16:27)

The founder of Next Digital, Jimmy Lai, and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” and other crimes. The case entered its 46th day of trial yesterday. The fourth accomplice witness, Andy Li, testified for the third day.

Ming Pao live text coverage of the trial

【16:15】Court adjourned.

【15:20】Andy Li testified that the remaining funds from the JD crowdfunding campaign were used to pay for consulting services for the “Lam Chau” team (攬炒巴). Initially, they engaged the consulting firm “89UP,” which focused more on media work but was weaker in political matters. Therefore, they later switched to the “Whitehouse” consulting firm. Li emphasized that the name of the firm is purely because the owner’s surname is “Whitehouse” and has no relation to the White House in the United States.

Li stated that the consulting firm helped the “Lam Chau” team organize activities. For example, during the district council elections in November 2019, they mobilized contacts to send observers for the elections. In May 2020, when there were reports that Hong Kong would implement the National Security Law, they arranged a joint statement with former Hong Kong Governor Chris Patten to express concerns in the UK about China’s violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. They also contacted Benedict Rogers of “Hong Kong Watch” in 2020. Li confirmed that his monthly statements showed multiple payments to consulting firms.

【14:33】Court resumes. Andy Li continues his testimony, stating that the crowdfunding project in July 2019 (referred to as JD crowdfunding) raised about £300,000. However, since the crowdfunding funds could not be used immediately and they did not have a bank account in the UK to receive the funds, Li helped to advance the payment for advertising. Subsequently, Li’s bank account received a transfer of about £300,000 from “Jack Hazlewood.” The prosecution presents an article mentioning the “Sino-British Joint Declaration advertisement,” which Li confirms is related to the JD crowdfunding.

The prosecution shows Li’s bank statement, which indicates that he paid about £95,000 to foreign media such as “Evening Standard” and “The Guardian” between July 19 and 25, 2019. Li confirms these payments were for advertisement fees related to the JD crowdfunding. The statement also shows a payment of about HK$370,000 to “Liberty Times LTD” on July 25. Li pointed out, “It seems to be associated with the JD campaign. If this is for ‘Taiwan Liberty Times,’ then it should be for another crowdfunding campaign.”

Li added that the remaining funds from the JD crowdfunding were kept in his bank account to cover expenses for the “Lam Chau” activities in the UK, such as “They organized a rally in support of Hong Kong. For instance, there were some minor expenses for the rally, like parking fees, which were paid with the remaining money from the JD crowdfunding.”

【12:42】Court adjourned.
【12:30】The prosecution asked Andy Li about his role in the UK event. Li stated that since the crowdfunding was mainly handled by the “Lam Chau” team, his involvement in the crowdfunding aspect was limited. However, Li was responsible for another incident, where the “Lam Chau” group wanted to use a photo from the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration showing then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shaking hands with the Chinese representative, but they did not know who owned the copyright to the photo. Someone noticed that the photo was on the Apple Daily website, so Li asked Chan Tsz-wah to inquire if Apple Daily would agree to their use of the photo.

Li said, “Chan Tsz-wah said he would ask when he had dinner with Jimmy Lai or ‘Fat Lai’ next Thursday… In this incident, I learned that he (Chan) could have dinner with Jimmy Lai.” Later, Chan replied to Li that they could use the photo.

【12:20】Andy Li also mentioned that when setting up the crowdfunding, they needed someone from the “Lam Chau” team to provide their bank account to receive the funds, so the “Lam Chau” team “could handle it themselves without bothering me.” However, at that time, “no one was willing to lend their account for this purpose.” Li considered that he had already used his own bank account for a previous crowdfunding campaign, “so even if I did it again, it wouldn’t increase my risk, so I decided to use my Standard Chartered account to receive the money.” Li added that the “risk” referred to the suspicion of “money laundering,” but he would keep all documents related to the crowdfunding, believing that he could ultimately prove it was not “money laundering.”

Li continued, saying that he was willing to lend his bank account, but since the GoFundMe crowdfunding platform only accepts bank accounts opened in the UK, in the end, a person named “Jack Hazlewood” lent his bank account. Li later learned that “Jack Hazlewood” was a writer for Apple Daily and that Chan Tsz-wah knew Mark Simon and “Fat Lai,” among others. Li corrected himself in court, saying, “Sorry, I mean Jimmy Lai.”

【12:00】The prosecution discussed the second crowdfunding project, and Li stated that the crowdfunding took place in July 2019, related to the activity of placing advertisements in the UK. At that time, Chan Tsz-wah or another member of the Telegram group introduced Li to “Lam Chau”, indicating that “Lam Chau” wanted to hold a crowdfunding and advertising campaign in the UK. Since Li was responsible for organizing the G20 summit’s crowdfunding project and that crowdfunding was “quite successful,” he was recommended to assist “Lam Chau”. Li added that he later learned that “Lam Chau” was initiated by Finn Lau.

Li only knew that the activity supported by the crowdfunding was held in the UK and was related to the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration. He did not pay attention to the specific details of the activity because it was handled by “Lam Chau”.

Li continued, “They pulled me in to help ‘Lam Chau’, initially wanting to ask about crowdfunding stuff.” Since the online crowdfunding platform used in the previous campaign had high fees, “raising close to 7 million, but in the end, 500 to 600 thousand went to fees,” they researched and selected an online crowdfunding platform with lower fees that could raise funds in pounds, ultimately choosing the GoFundMe platform.

【11:45】Court resumed. The prosecution asked why Li donated the remaining crowdfunding funds to the 612 Fund. Li stated that the 612 Fund provides legal support to arrested individuals, “it is completely legal, and I understand the public would not oppose it.” Moreover, Li needed to donate all the remaining funds to avoid suspicion, “leaving money here, or someone might worry it would end up in their pocket.”

【11:02】Short recess.

【10:46】Andy Li stated that after the advertising campaign in various countries’ newspapers in June 2019 ended, the remaining funds from the crowdfunding, after deducting advertising expenses and other costs, amounted to HK$150,000. Li said that the remaining funds “could not be pocketed or laundered elsewhere, so they were donated to 612.” The prosecution asked if 612 referred to the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund,” and Li confirmed it.

Li recalled that Apple Daily had interviewed the crowdfunding team, but he forgot which crowdfunding project it was related to because, apart from the one mentioned in June 2019, there was another crowdfunding project between July and August of the same year. The prosecution intended to show some news articles for Li to confirm if they were related to the June 2019 crowdfunding, but Judge Alex Lee questioned the appropriateness of presenting such evidence to Li since he had not stated that he had seen the related reports.

【10:07】Court resumed. Andy Li, a member of “Hong Kong Story,” continued his testimony. The prosecution asked about July 2019 when T (Chan Tsz-wah) instructed Andy Li to arrange the repayment of the advance advertising fees. Li responded that at the time, T provided him with the bank account of a company called “Chartwell” for Li to transfer the funds into, involving an amount of about HK$1.56 million. Li had previously testified that T mentioned that the “higher-ups” were worried about not getting the advance payment back. Li added today that T did not specify who the “higher-ups” were, but said, “I don’t remember if it was my speculation or what they said,” and “because the company that advanced the money wasn’t supposed to do global advertising, they wanted to wrap up the matter quickly, so there wouldn’t be any unrelated business dragging on.”

Li continued that after T expressed the “higher-ups'” concerns, he requested Li to sign a promissory note. Li stated in court that he was not sure who the payee of the note was, but both parties filled in their real names when signing the note and showed their ID cards for identity verification, so at that time, Li learned for the first time that T’s real name was Chan Tsz-wah.

Ming Pao Reporters: Yeung Chi-kuen, Tong Bik-yu

Ming Pao

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