Hong Kong court lets UK lawyer defend media tycoon Jimmy Lai on corruption charges
Jimmy Lai (pictured), a Hong Kong businessman, and co-founder of the now-collapsed tycoon Jimmy Lai Holdings, is seen with a large stash of cash in 2014. Mr Lai, who was charged with multiple offences of fraud and abuse of power for siphoning money from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, is suing for nearly 5 billion US dollars. (Photo: Getty Images)
A leading barrister has won the right to represent Hong Kong businessman Jimmy Lai in a court battle over a US-based legal fund’s involvement in his corruption trial.
Mark Ransom QC, who was asked to defend Mr Lai, will tell a federal judge in Washington DC on January 27 how his law firm has had to spend six hours travelling to Hong Kong in August 2017 to attend a hearing for the case.
He also plans to tell the court how Hong Kong businessman James Tung, one of the defendants in the case, has “absconded”, leaving Mr Lai without the “full and effective assistance of counsel” he needs.
Mr Ransom and Tung are being forced to battle in court against “unprecedented and extraordinary” evidence — the details of which have been kept secret — as they try to prove that Mr Lai has not been charged with any offence.
The move was agreed by US District Court Judge Judith Rogers on Wednesday after she requested more time for further research into the evidence against Mr Lai by the US Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section.
She gave Mr Lai a further 30 days to file a written response to questions from her office, but the deadline passed without a response.
Mr Tung, a former associate of Mr Lai, is accused of being a “mule” for Mr Lai, laundering money for him over the course of a two-year period after he fled the UK following a US investigation.
A US jury found Mr Tung guilty of money laundering by a seven-to-one majority on Thursday. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on the charges against Mr Lai, according to the Department of Justice.
The jury had to continue deliberating at around 11.30pm local time