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Day 48: March 19, 2024

Ming Pao: Jimmy Lai Trial | Andy Li claims to have paid nearly HK$1.5 million in advance for advertising fees to Nikkei; Nikkei once sent the invoice to Agnes Chow (16:58)

Next Digital founder Jimmy Lai and three related companies of Apple Daily are charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces.” The trial entered its 48th day today. The fourth accomplice witness, Andy Li, testified for the fifth day.

Ming Pao live coverage of the trial

【16:15】 Court adjourned.

【15:50】 The prosecution continued to point out that the “G Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong Crowdfunding” campaign had a remaining fund of about US$690,000 in May 2020. Li stated that the funds were used not only for newspaper advertisements but also for activities supporting freedom and democracy in Hong Kong around the world. The prosecution continued to present records of other advertising expenses, including €26,000 to France’s Le Monde, US$28,000 to The New York Times (International Edition), AU$40,000 to The Australian, HK$330,000 to Taiwan’s Liberty Times, €14,000 to Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat, and DKK 54,000 to Denmark’s Berlingske.

【15:28】 For the advertisement “Stand with Hong Kong until dawn” published in Canada’s The Globe and Mail, Andy Li personally paid CAD 130,000 through his bank account. The prosecution read part of the advertisement, which mentioned ways readers could support them, including asking the Canadian government to apply political pressure on the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, such as sanctions and banning weapon exports. Li stated that the theme of the advertisement was to support freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, but the text and design of the advertisement were handled by other members of the team, whom he did not know.

【14:33】 Court resumed. Andy Li corrected his previous testimony that The Nikkei returned the funds advanced by T, stating that due to the time difference, T’s payment to The Nikkei could not be made before the advertisement was published. Therefore, Li temporarily paid HK$1.47 million to The Nikkei, and after a few days, when The Nikkei confirmed receipt of T’s payment, they refunded Li’s temporary payment.

The prosecution continued to present documents showing that the “G Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong Crowdfunding” campaign had published 8 advertisements in six British newspapers between August 19 and August 31, 2019, involving a total of about £120,000. According to Andy Li’s income and expenditure statement, this amount was paid by “funder 2,” whom Li stated was someone from “T’s side.”

Another document was a receipt for payment of SEK 164,450, which Li said was for advertising in Swedish newspapers like Dagens Nyheter and was handed to him by T. Similar examples where T handed receipts to Li included a payment of €48,000 to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and KRW 22 million to South Korea’s Kyunghyang Shinmun.

【12:53】 Court adjourned.

【12:00】 Court resumed. Andy Li continued his testimony, stating that the “G Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong Crowdfunding” campaign’s advertising expenses amounted to about HK$6.3 million, of which about HK$3.5 million was advanced by T, and the remaining HK$2.7 million was advanced by Li. The prosecution presented related receipts and contracts, including a payment of €18,500 to Spain’s El Mundo, which Li stated was paid by LAIS Hotel, adding that he was unaware of which company paid for which newspaper before seeing the document, but he was aware of it because he had prepared the account.

Another advertisement related to the “G Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong Crowdfunding” campaign was published in The Nikkei. The prosecution presented an email sent to Agnes Chow by The Nikkei on August 14, with an invoice for the advertising fee, and Li contacted the newspaper the next day. Li stated that the advertisement fee was initially advanced by T from Canada, but due to the time difference, the payment could not be made to The Nikkei before the advertisement was published. In the end, Li advanced about HK$1.47 million to The Nikkei for the advertisement fee, and later The Nikkei staff informed Li that they would refund the payment from Canada.

【11:10】 Court adjourned.

【10:40】 Andy Li stated that on September 17, he sent an email to GoFundMe, informing the staff that Mark would withdraw the funds. Li confirmed in court that this referred to Mark Simon and mentioned that at the time, someone accidentally sent the information to the first wealthy American, and since Mark Simon’s personal information should not have been disclosed to the first wealthy American, Li indicated in the email to the staff that communication should occur within the same email thread.

【10:03】 Court resumed. “Hong Kong Story” member Andy Li continued to testify about the “G Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong Crowdfunding” incident in August 2019. On September 7 of the same year, he drafted an email to a staff member of the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, explaining that he planned to replace another wealthy American to collect the funds, and later Li learned that the identity of this wealthy American was Mark Simon.
At that time, Li knew that the new recipient would be T (the nickname used by Chan Tsz-wah in the Telegram group) or someone close to T. The reason was that when Li expressed to T that the first wealthy American was unable to successfully withdraw the funds, T said he would find a solution, and later T indicated that “his side had found someone,” so the task of collecting the funds was handed over to T.
On September 10 of the same year, Li sent an email to GoFundMe, asking the staff if a limited liability company (LLC) could act as the recipient of the funds. Li explained in court that at that time, they had discussed changing the recipient’s identity from an individual to a company, so it was worth asking first. He also mentioned that he had discussed with T and Mark Simon on WhatsApp whether it was possible to establish an LLC to manage the funds, but Li could not remember the exact date or who proposed the idea, only recalling that the discussion took place in September.

Ming Pao Reporters: Yeung Chi-kuen (楊志權), Tong Bik-yu

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