November 3, 2015 / 11:24 AM / 4 years ago

Britain to return former Macau official's corrupt assets worth $44 million

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Britain has agreed to repatriate to Macau $44 million (28.53 million pound) of ill-gotten assets belonging to a former top Macau official who was jailed in 2008 for bribery and money laundering.

Under the agreement, “most of the illicit assets abroad” of Macau’s former secretary for transport and public works would be sent back to the former Portuguese colony in southeast China, the Macau government said in a statement on Tuesday.

Ao Man-long, was the most senior official to be tried since Macau returned to Chinese rule in 1999.

His trial was the biggest corruption case in Macau’s history and anti-graft officers said at the time they had evidence he had acquired a fortune of about $100 million, more than 57 times his income over seven years as a top policy secretary.

“Until today, most of Ao’s proceeds of corruption abroad that the Macau court ordered to confiscate have already been successfully recovered,” the government said.

The repatriation comes as China is trying to stamp out corruption, which has plunged Macau, the world’s largest gambling hub, into a downward spiral as high rollers keep a low profile and steer clear of China’s only legal casino centre.

The agreement comes after Chinese President Xi Jinping sealed a raft of investment deals with Britain, totalling more than $60 billion, during an October visit there.

Ao was in charge of approving land sales to property developers vying for a slice of real estate in land-starved Macau. He is serving a 29 year sentence in the Chinese special administrative region.

Following his trial, the Macau government applied for an injunction to freeze his proceeds and assets from accounts in Britain.

Reporting by Farah Master; Editing by Robert Birsel

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