Paul Liberatore

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Hong Kong ruling won’t affect Vancouver real estate company, says firm’s vice-president

A Vancouver property developer with ties to a billionaire recently sentenced in Hong Kong to five years in jail for corruption is not expecting any fallout.

“It is business as usual,” said Aspac senior vice-president Raymond Li in a statement. “Aspac Developments is a Vancouver-based, private company and has operated independently since 1993.”

Thomas Kwok, the Hong Kong billionaire whose family started Aspac, is expected to appeal the ruling of conspiracy involving bribes made to a high-ranking government official. He resigned as chairman and managing director of Hong Kong-listed Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd.

The court decision also involved a 7-1/2 year sentence and US$1.4 million fine for Raphael Hui, Hong Kong’s former chief secretary. Kwok’s brother, Raymond, was cleared of all charges.

Hong Kong, which has long thrived as a major financial hub known for being relatively free of corruption, was gripped by the six-month long trial.

The sentencing last week came after many revelations about how a powerful and wealthy tycoon like Kwok was able to sway the city’s government. Details included egregious spending on fine dining, a race horse and a mistress.

The case also brought to light the extent of the Kwok family’s wealth and influence in Hong Kong. He and his brothers helmed Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., a US$41 billion company that built Hong Kong’s tallest and most recognizable buildings.

To get a sense of its economic importance in Hong Kong, a company in the U.S. would have to be three times more valuable than Apple in order to compare, Hong Kong-based shareholder activist David Webb once told the British Broadcasting Company in 2012.

In the early 1990s, at the height of migration to Canada, both of wealth and families from Hong Kong to Vancouver in anticipation of the 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule, Aspac partnered with Marathon Realty to develop a mega project at Coal Harbour, which was then an industrial zone next to the old CP Rail yards.

Over almost two decades, Aspac helped to transform the area, putting up eight luxury condo towers.

Today, Aspac’s condo units there include multi-million dollar ones at One Harbour Green, Two Harbour Green and Three Harbour Green.

The company also built The Wesbrook, a 17-storey condo tower at the University of B.C. and, more recently, it has been marketing River Green, a 27-acre, 2,600-unit development by the south side of the Fraser River next to the Richmond speed-skating oval.

The exact ownership of Aspac today isn’t known and executives were not available to comment. Since it was started, the family has publicly feuded over its various assets.

In 2008, Thomas and Raymond, with the support of their then -79-year-old mother, ousted their older brother Walter from Sun Hung Kai chairmanship in Hong Kong.


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