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Hong Kong court finds property billionaire, former top official guilty of corruption

HONG KONG – A Hong Kong jury found a billionaire property developer and a former top government official guilty of corruption Friday after a high profile trial that amplified anger at the city’s elite.

The property magnate Thomas Kwok was convicted of conspiracy for making HK$8.5 million ($1.1 million) of payments to city official Rafael Hui.

At the time of the offences, Hui was Hong Kong’s No. 2 official. He was found guilty on charges of misconduct and conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office. Kwok’s younger brother Raymond, also a billionaire, was found not guilty.

Anti-corruption police arrested and charged the Kwok brothers in 2012. Prosecutors alleged that the prominent developers gave bribes in exchange for lucrative information on pending land sales. They later slightly revised the charges, dropping the bribery charge against Raymond Kwok.

“I’m feeling very conflicted,” Kwok said outside the High Court. “I’m happy that the verdicts proved my innocence. On the other hand, I’m unhappy that Thomas Kwok was found guilty.”

The corruption scandal shocked the southern Chinese financial centre, where residents have traditionally revered the city’s tycoons. But widening inequality, much of it linked to skyrocketing housing costs in the densely populated city, means that has given way in recent years to public anger at the billionaire class.

The Kwok brothers, who are joint chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd, are two of the world’s wealthiest people. They have built some of Hong Kong’s tallest buildings, including the Sun Hung Kai Centre.

Thomas Kwok was remanded in custody until Monday when the court will announce sentences.

Two middlemen, Thomas Chan and Francis Kwan, were found guilty of conspiracy charges.