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Day 9: January 10, 2024

Ming Pao: National Security Police said that Lai had transferred tens of millions of dollars to pro-democracy camp and individuals within one year, and had also transferred money to a former US officials (15:03)

“Next Digital” founder Jimmy Lai and three companies of “Apple Daily” were accused of colluding with foreign forces. The trial entered its ninth day at the High Court (the West Kowloon Court) today (January 10). The prosecution read the National Security Department senior inspector of police’s written statement, which analyzes the flow of funds in the case and discloses that Jimmy Lai transferred more than 1.75 million to the former US Deputy Secretary of Defense for “unexplained reasons” and deposited 3.5 million to Cardinal Joseph Zen. The statement also alleges that Lai transferred tens of millions of dollars to the pro-democracy camp, including former Legislative Council member Au Nok-hin, through many of his companies and personal assistant Mark Simon.

Senior public prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum read out National Security Department senior inspector of police Hung Lai-fan’s written statement, which analyzes the flow of funds in Jimmy Lai’s eight bank accounts. She pointed out that as early as July 2013, Lai had used the relevant bank accounts to send approximately HK$587,000 to former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Later, Lai deposited more than HK$1.17 million through five transactions between 2014 and 2019. In February and December 2017, Lai made two deposits to Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Hong Kong. The amounts are HK$3 million and HK$500,000 respectively.

As for the case involving Jimmy Lai’s conspiracy to collude with foreign forces involving the “12 Hong Kong People”, the statement says that Jimmy Lai partly paid for Andy Li’s advertisements on global newspapers calling for foreign sanctions. The statement points out that LAIS Hotel Property Limited, a Canadian company owned by Jimmy Lai, advanced part of the newspaper advertising expenses on behalf of Andy Li. In August 2019, LAIS’s account transferred HK$1.4 million to Nikkei China (Hong Kong) Co., Ltd., and three days later, Andy Li transferred HK$1.4 million to LAIS. The police seized relevant receipts from Andy Li’s apartment, which showed that after LAIS paid the advertising fees on his behalf, Andy Li returned the money. The police also seized documents that show LAIS transferring 80,000 pounds to the British newspaper “The Guardian” and US$80,000 to the American newspaper “Washington Post”.

LAIS is also accused of transferring a total of HK$20 million to “politically connected beneficiaries” from September 2019 to October 2020, including transferring nearly HK$8 million to the Civic Party, HK$5 million to the Democratic Party, HK$1 million to the Labor Party, HK$930,000 to the Social Democratic League, HK$3.64 million to Andy Li, and HK$379,000 to former Legislative Council member Au Nok-hin.

Jimmy Lai’s company transferred funds to the law firm Ho Tse Wai & Partners on two other occasions. In March 2016, Lai transferred HK$5 million to his subsidiary Comitex Knitters Limited (公明紡織廠). Two days later, Gongming Textile Factory transferred HK$2 million to Ho Tse Wai & Partners and HK$3 million to the Democratic Party through a bank cashier’s check. One month later, the bank cashier’s check was returned; Jimmy Lai also transferred HK$2 million to o Tse Wai & Partners through Mark Simon.

The Witness: Day 9 of Jimmy Lai Trial | National Security Department gives testimony alleging that lai transferred money to the pro-democracy camp many times and sent more than HK$1 million to US Deputy Secretary of Defense

Next Media founder Jimmy Lai and three companies related to “Apple Daily” were charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces” and other crimes. The case entered its ninth day at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court (Provisional High Court) on Wednesday (January 10). The prosecution read out a written statement by the national security police who investigated Lai’s finances. The statement pointed out that Andy Li of the “SWHK Team” received a “suspicious huge sum” of more than HK$14 million, and withdrew HK$9.8 million from the account to pay for advertisement in international newspapers.

The police statement points out that according to the bank records of Jimmy Lai and his assistant Mark Simon, Lai sent money to former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz six times between 2013 and 2017, involving a total of about 1.767 million yuan. Lai also sent a total of HK$3.5 million to Cardinal Joseph Zen, who served as Bishop of Hong Kong, and transferred more than HK$10 million through his companies to various pro-democracy parties, including the Democratic Party, Civic Party, Labor Party, and the League of Social Democrats, etc.

The police said Jimmy Lai used Mark Simon’s accounts to transfer money for “suspicious purposes” and that he had “funded local and overseas political organizations for many years.” The defense was concerned that the police statement contained exaggerated words and was too biased. Judge Alex Lee agreed and said that the judgment of the testimonies should not be determined by the police but by the court. In addition, the prosecution played footage of Jimmy Lai’s videotaped deposition. The trial will resume next Tuesday (January 16). The defense team is expected to raise questions about the validity of the expert witnesses.

The case was heard by Esther Toh Lye-ping, Susana Maria D’Almada Remedios andAlex Lee Wan-tang, judges designated by the National Security Law of the High Court. The prosecution was represented by Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Anthony Chau Tin-hang, Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Ivan Cheung Cheuk-kan, and Senior public prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum; Jimmy Lai was represented by Senior Counsel Robert Pang Yiu-hung, Barrister Steven Kwan, and New Zealand King’s Counsel Marc Corlett, who is qualified to practice in Hong Kong.

National security police say Andy Li received “suspicious huge sums of money”

Prosecutor Crystal Chan Wing-sum read out Senior Inspector Hung Lai-fan’s 36-page written statement regarding their financial investigation of this case. Hung Lai-fan says she joined the police force in 1982 and is now stationed at the National Security Department. A search warrant was obtained by police to look into the bank records. Regarding the charges against the “SWHK Team”, Hung said Andy Li had 6 bank accounts, 3 of which were opened by Li in 2015 and 2019 respectively. Another two accounts were opened by Li using Japanese names, and the remaining one was a company account. .

Hung Lai-fan pointed out that between June 15, 2019 and April 24, 2020, there were a total of 47 transaction records in 6 bank accounts, of which 5 deposits were alleged to be “suspicious huge sums”, involving a total of more than HK$14 million. According to the statement, the crowdfunding platform Stripe transferred HK$6.15 million in the first crowdfunding round; Apple Daily columnist Jack Henry Hazlewood transferred 300,000 pounds (equivalent to HK$3.1 million) in the second round of crowdfunding.

In addition, Jimmy Lai’s assistant Mark Simon transferred HK$500,000 and approximately HK$3.28 million in the third round of crowdfunding to Li through the US trust fund “The Project Hong Kong Trust.” The remaining HK$1.47 million were deposited by “Nikkei Asia”. The opening statement by the prosecution mentioned that Li had prepaid HK$1.47 million to “Nikkei Asia” for advertisement. Nikkei Asia later refunded Li as Lai used his company “Lais Hotel” to pay Nikkei Asia for the same advertisement.

National Security police statement: Andy Li spent HK $9.8 million on global newspaper advertisement

Hung’s statement continued that during the same period, Andy Li withdrew HK$12 million, of which HK$9.8 million was used to post advertisements on newspapers in more than 20 overseas media outlets, such as Taiwan’s “Liberty Times” and the British “White House Consultancy Limited.”

Chan Tsz-wah, another defendant who pleaded guilty, said that he had received 3 payments from Jimmy Lai, Mark Simon and “DICO Consultants Ltd.” under Lai’s name. Lai also transferred his board membership and HSBC bank account under BVI company “LACOCK Inc.” to Chan. At that time, there was HK$80,000 in the account, and Chan received a total of more than HK$330,000.

National security police statement: Lai sent HK$ 3.5 million to Cardinal Joseph Zen

Crystal Chan Wing-sum also read out the investigation report of Jimmy Lai’s personal bank accounts, saying that between 2013 and 2017, nine of Lai’s accounts sent money to former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz six times, involving a total of about HK$1.767 million. The accounts also showed records of two transactions totalling HK$ 3.5 million in 2017 to Hong Kong Bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen.

The accounts transferred a total of HK$116,000 to the American Enterprise Institute three times between 2015 and 2017. In October 2020, they transferred approximately HK$ 202,000 to the British non-governmental organization “Hong Kong Watch”. The prosecution described that Lai repeatedly sent money to different people for “unknown reasons.”

National security police statement: Lai sent money to pro-democracy camp and others through companies under his name

Hung’s statement also mentioned that “Lais Hotel” under Lai’s name made multiple transfers to “people with political backgrounds” from 2019 to 2020, including a total of about HK$ 8 million to the Civic Party from September to October 2019, HK$ 1 million to the Labor Party on November 10, HK$ 5 million to the headquarters of the Democratic Party on November 4, and HK$3.6 to Andy Li on December 4.

Records continue to indicate that “Lais Hotel” transferred a total of HK$930,000 to the”Social Democratic League on November 20, 2019 and January 8, 2020; on October 7, 2020, it transferred nearly HK$ 380,000 to former Legislative Council member Au Nok-hin.

Hung’s statement also mentioned that in March 2016, Lai had given HK$2 million and HK$3 million respectively to the law firm Ho Tse Wai & Partners and the Democratic Party through bank cashier’s checks via his subsidiary “Comitex Knitters Limited.’ Among transactions, HK$3 million to the Democratic Party was returned in the following month, and Mark Simon transferred another HK$3 million to the Democratic Party in the form of a cashier’s check.

National security police statement: Mark Simon’s accounts have records of transferring funds to Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China and the Civic Party

As for the personal accounts of Jimmy Lai’s assistant Mark Simon, Hung pointed out that he transferred HK$22,000 to the Civic Party by cashier’s check in 2014, and made two transfers totaling HK$350,000 to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China in 2019. Hung continued to point out that Mark Simon transferred about HK$102 million to political parties and “affiliated beneficiaries”, and HK$2 million to the law firm Ho Tse Wai & Partners.

Based on the above records, the Democratic Party received a total of HK$8 million through Jimmy Lai’s companies and Mark Simon; Ho Tse Wai & Partners received a total of HK$4 million.

National security police statement: Lai used assistant accounts for “suspicious purposes”

The police generally described Jimmy Lai as the main person who transferred the money through Mark Simon’s accounts, involving HK$118 million, of which HK$93.26 million was dissipated to pro-democracy organizations. This shows that Lai used Mark Simon’s accounts for “suspicious purposes.” The police also described Jimmy Lai as having “a long history of financing local and overseas entities with political background.”

After Crystal Chan Wing-sum read Hung’s confession, defense barrister Steven Kwan was concerned that the police’s confession contained colorful and dramatic language, and that Inspector Hung Lai-fan was not testifying as an expert witness. Judge Alex Lee agreed that the conclusion of the statements should not be determined by the police but by the court.

Deposition: Police displayed articles involved in the case, to which Lai responded, “I have nothing to say.”

The prosecution later played in court footage of Jimmy Lai under police interrogation on September 1, 2020. Lai was accompanied by his legal representative. During the interrogation, police showed Lai a number of reports from Apple Daily between 2019 and 2020, including articles in the column “Success and Failure with a Smile,” articles with Lai’s byline, as well as Apple Daily’s front pages from July 1 to August 18, 2020, and some interviews Lai did.

The police officers questioned Lai about the relevant articles one by one, including the purpose of publishing them, “anything you want to say”, who approved the publications, who wrote them, etc. Lai only confirmed that he wrote the articles under his own name and that “Success and Failure with a Smile,” was his pen name. As for questions about the content, who published them, etc., Li responded with “nothing to say,” “I don’t know,” and “nothing to add.”

The police also showed a Twitter account named “Jimmy Lai” with the username “@JimmyLaiApple”, and Lai admitted to possessing the Twitter account. The police also showed him the posts posted on Twitter and asked him about the meaning of the posted content and who posted them. Lai replied, “I have nothing to say.”

Police display a transaction receipt signed by “Andy Li.” Lai said he didn’t know him

The police later showed a receipt for a money transaction to the British “Guardian” in June 2019, signed “Andy Li”, mentioning that Li had paid 18,000 pounds to the “Guardian”. Police also alleged that Li had sent French and Italian media outlets transaction receipts. Lai said he had no knowledge, did not know Andy Li, and had no knowledge of him.

The police further pointed out that the company “Lais Hotel” owned by Lai paid US$85,000 to the Washington Post and asked Lai whether “Lais Hotel” was a company under his name. Lai said he had no knowledge of the matter and had “nothing to say” and that he had no contact with the Washington Post.

Defense lawyers: Plan to dispute Wang Guiguo’s testimony and its relevance to the charge

After the deposition was played in court, the prosecution stated that it could be dealt with later, and the defense disputed the validity of the prosecution expert testimony. The judges mentioned earlier that prosecution expert witness and Priscilla Leung’s husband, Wang Guiguo, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Law, will appear in court to describe the legal effects of the sanctions.

Steven Kwan said he planned to dispute the expert witness’s report’s relevance to the two national security charges. He also confirmed that he originally planned to challenge Wang Guiguo’s expert qualifications for sanctions against countries other than the United States. But later Kwan decided not to challenge Wang’s expert qualifications after learning that the prosecution would not rely on the relevant testimony. Since both the prosecution and defense need time to prepare relevant written submissions, the case has been adjourned to next Tuesday (16th) for further hearing.

Ming Pao

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