Hong Kong court finds former bourse exec not guilty of graft

HONG KONG (Reuters) -A Hong Kong court said on Friday that Eugene Yeoh, former co-head of IPO vetting at the financial hub’s stock exchange operator, was not guilty of receiving bribes to look favourably on listing applications.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Hong Kong Exchanges & Clearing Ltd. (HKEX) is seen at the financial Central district in Hong Kong, China September 14, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo

IPO consultant Richard Lum, who had been accused of paying bribes to Yeoh, was also found not guilty.

Yeoh’s role at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX) was to make sure applications were compliant with listing rules and endorse recommendations to the bourse’s listing committees which have the final say on a listing candidate’s eligibility.

The prosecution had argued Yeoh and Lum had collaborated on at least 12 IPOs between 2015 and 2019, most on Hong Kong’s junior Growth Enterprise Market, or GEM board.

But judge Gary Lam said the prosecution had not proven Yeoh knew of Lum’s role in the relevant IPOs.

He also said the prosecution had not proven a total of HK$9.15 million ($1.17 million) Lum had transferred to bank accounts belonging to Yeoh’s wife or the couple’s joint account was a bribe and not for investment purposes, as the defence had argued, since Yeoh’s wife was an investment professional.

Yeoh left the bourse in May 2019. He was arrested by Hong Kong’s anti corruption watchdog, the Independent Commission Against Corruption, that same year.

An ICAC spokeswoman did not have an immediate comment on whether the watchdog would seek to appeal the judge’s decision.

An HKEX spokesman said they noted the ruling, adding the company “has cooperated fully with the ICAC in the conduct of its investigation, promotes the highest standards of integrity and professionalism across its various business functions, and is committed to continuing to play its role in maintaining the integrity of Hong Kong as a leading financial centre.”

Yeoh and Lum left the court without making any comment.

This is this year’s second significant not guilty verdict by a Hong Kong court involving a defendant from the city’s financial industry arrested by the ICAC.

In January this year, JPMorgan’s former vice chairman of Asia investment banking, Catherine Leung here, was found not guilty of bribery with the judge saying Leung had followed the bank’s existing procedures.

($1 = 7.7906 Hong Kong dollars)

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