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HK pile fraud: man jailed for bribe attempt

AN INDUSTRIAL diver has been jailed for 20 months for attempting to bribe an Ove Arup works inspector during a piling contract in Hong Kong.

Lau Yee-lai pleaded guilty on two counts of offering bribes to Mak Yiu- man, an inspector of works contracted to Ove Arup & Partners. He offered a total of £15,400 for Mak to ignore short piles on the Airport Express railway Hong Kong station northern site last October (NCE 4 June).

Passing sentence, magistrate John Brennan said Lau had committed a serious offence and undermined public confidence in the construction industry.

The piling works were carried out by local contractor On Foundation Engineering, which was a subcontractor to Pak Kee Transportation Company. Pak Kee is partly owned by German contractor Bilfinger & Berger.

The court heard that Mak first found a problem with the depth of one of the 1.5m to 2.5m diameter piles on 17 October. The following day he found the bore concreted without authorisation and refused to give approval without remedial work.

Mak then discovered that seven concrete delivery dockets had been falsified to hide a 54m3 concrete shortfall in the pile, and reported the matter to the resident engineer.

The court was told that 11 days later Mak was approached by Lau and handed a white envelope containing £7,700 to ignore the forged dockets. Mak refused to accept the bribe but said he locked it in his drawer fearing his own safety. Lau gave Mak another envelope which also contained £7,700 two days later.

During questioning by Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption, Lau admitted being instructed by an OFE superintendent to offer bribes to Mak. Three other defendants - a former engineer and former foreman for OFE and a former engineer for B&B will appear in court today (Thursday).

A further 15 sites where construction is either ongoing or has been completed in the last two years are also now being investigated by the Hong Kong Buildings Department. So far under-length piles have only been found on one other site - the Kowloon Station Package A.

An Arup spokeswoman said: 'Remediation work is almost complete on Hong Kong North and we have designed and had approved a remediation method for the Kowloon site.'

Bilfinger & Berger Construction Company (HK) refused to comment.

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