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Hong Kong billionaire found guilty in Macau bribery case

HONG KONG--Hong Kong billionaire Joseph Lau was found guilty Friday of bribing a disgraced former minister in the gambling enclave of Macau in an attempt to purchase a prime development site in the former Portuguese colony.

Lau, 62, a real estate tycoon worth US$8.4 billion according to the Forbes rich list, was found guilty along with co-accused Steven Lo of offering former Macau transport and public works minister Ao Man-long a US$2.58 million bribe for the acquisition of land near the airport in 2005, the South China Morning Post reported.

Ao is currently serving 29 years in jail for a catalogue of corruption offences, and the activities of Lau and his partner Lo, who owns Hong Kong's South China football club, first came to light during his trial in 2012, the newspaper said.

Lau's Chinese Estates Holdings is building an upmarket residential property on the site called La Scala, and says it has invested more than US$2.5 billion in its construction and design.

Macau's Court of First Instance sentenced Lau and Lo to five years and three months imprisonment each, the South China Morning Post reported, though neither man was in court and they will be unlikely to serve time as Hong Kong and Macau do not have an extradition agreement.

Both men have said poor health has prevented them from appearing at different times during the trial, which began last year. “The doctor said (Lo) has to rest in bed for at least two days,” Lo's lawyer Jorge Neto Valente said Friday.

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