Hong Kong court finds former bourse executive not guilty of graft

Hong Kong court finds former bourse executive not guilty of graft
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HONG KONG (Dec 3): A Hong Kong court said on Friday (Dec 3) Eugene Yeoh, a former co-head of initial public offering (IPO) vetting at the financial hub's stock exchange operator, was not guilty of receiving bribes to look favourably in listing applications.

IPO consultant Richard Lum, who was 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 argued that Yeoh and Lum 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 (US$1.17 million or about RM4.97 million) Lum 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 (ICAC), that same year.

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

An HKEX spokesman said they noted the ruling, adding that 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 comments.

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 was found not guilty of bribery, with the judge saying she followed the bank’s existing procedures.