Fri, Jul 18, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Arrests rock Hong Kong entertainment industry

AFP , HONG KONG

Hong Kong's entertainment industry was in shock yesterday after several leading figures and Canto-pop stars were arrested in a graft inquiry over rigged music awards and chart placings, reports said.

Tycoon Albert Yeung and singer Juno Mak were reportedly among 22 people detained late Wednesday by investigators from Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The ICAC said it had arrested two senior executives and an employee of a broadcasting company, a chairman and three employees of an entertainment company along with the president, vice-president and singer of a records company.

All the arrested were detained in connection with corruption allegations over preferential treatment of "a number of singers, including the promotion of these singers and their hits on a music billboard," the ICAC said.

Eight of the 22 arrested were released on bail yesterday, a spokeswoman for ICAC said, without giving details.

"The rest are still held as the investigation is continuing," she said.

The graft watchdog said employees of the record and entertainment companies were alleged to have offered bribes to broadcasting figures in exchange for ensuring songs from their singers were given high chart placings.

The ICAC also said it was investigating allegations that bribes had been offered in exchange for securing various music awards.

During the ICAC operation carried out late Wednesday, 26 other people were also interviewed in connection with the investigation.

The case is believed to be one of the largest inquiries into alleged impropriety in the Hong Kong entertainment industry.

As well as Yeung, chairman of the Emperor Group, others arrested reportedly included senior executives from TVB, Hong Kong's leading television station, and Universal singer Mak and his father, Clement Mak, who is the chairman of CCT Telecom.

Singers Nicolas Tse, Eason Chan Yik-shun, Yumiko and Taiwanese entertainer Dave Wang-chieh were also reported to have been interviewed by ICAC in connection with the case.

Juno Mak picked up the "best interpretation" award during TVB Jade's Solid Gold Awards in January -- and was booed by the studio audience.

He has been a favorite target for Hong Kong's lively tabloid-style gossip magazines, with his musical ability frequently under scrutiny.

Media tycoon Yeung meanwhile is one of the Hong Kong media and entertainment industry's most colorful figures, and has been implicated in a series of several high-profile court cases spanning a 20-year period.

He was jailed for nine months in 1981 for attempting to pervert the course of justice, but in 1995 was cleared of criminal intimidation and false imprisonment after all five prosecution witnesses forgot details of offences.

Yeung also escaped a botched kidnap attempt in 1989, and owned the racy Eastweek magazine before it was shut down last year after publishing a photograph of a semi-naked actress taken during a kidnapping in 1991.

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