Hong Kong tycoon Kwok's plea for bail rejected

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong court rejected property tycoon Thomas Kwok's plea for bail Monday as he appeals a five-year prison sentence for bribing a senior official in a corruption case which shocked the city.

The 63-year-old, who was the joint chairman of Hong Kong's biggest property company Sun Hung Kai, was jailed in December after he was found guilty of conspiracy to commit misconduct in a public office over a series of payments totalling HK$8.5 million (US$1.1 million) given to former city deputy leader Rafael Hui.

The high-profile case shocked the city and deepened anger over cosy ties between officialdom and big business.

Kwok, who is serving his sentence at the city's maximum security Stanley Prison, has appealed the ruling and asked the court to grant him bail as he awaits the outcome.

But his plea was rejected by appeals court judge Yeung Chun-kuen. The court bars publication of any detail on the reasoning for the ruling.

Hui, the city's former Chief Secretary for Administration, was jailed for seven and a half years on a total of five graft charges, making him the highest-ranking official in the city's history to be found guilty of taking bribes.

During a seven-month jury trial leading to the conviction, the prosecution said Hui was made the "eyes and ears" in government for Sun Hung Kai, while he enjoyed an extravagant standard of living.

Hong Kong is seen as relatively corruption-free -- it was ranked the joint 15th cleanest country or territory in 2013 by watchdog Transparency International.

But the case fuelled anger at what locals call "collusion" between government and businesses, with many young Hong Kongers struggling with a lack of opportunity amid soaring property prices and stagnant wages.