Macau’s former transport and public works secretary Ao Man-long, who was arrested in December on suspicion of graft, had assets exceeding 800 million patacas (US$100 million), Macau’s anti-graft agency alleges.

The assets were equal to 57 times the total earnings of Ao and his wife in their official posts over the past six years, the Commission Against Corruption said at a press briefing Wednesday.

Investigators had also found in Ao’s home several bottles of wine dating back more than a century and which could fetch around 400,000 patacas each, the commission said.

Ao was arrested on suspicion of corruption on December 8, 2006, and has been in custody since then.

The commission said the case would soon be handed over to prosecutors and that Ao would be formally charged. It said 30 individuals are involved in the case, four of whom are still at large.

The commission said investigators looked at more than 2,000 bank accounts, scrutinized more than 10,000 documents and questioned dozens of individuals since Ao’s arrest.

The commission alleged that between 2002 and 2006, Ao received 187 million patacas in bribes from three real estate and construction companies, two from Macau and one from the mainland.

In return, Ao had allegedly offered favors to these companies in 20 government works projects, 12 of which were public works projects.

A commission spokesman, who gave his surname as Wong, alleged that Ao had used an evasive route to transfer the bribe money into his personal bank accounts.

“The involved companies first deposited the money into a bank account in Macau. The money was then transferred to Hong Kong and an offshore account belonging to Ao’s relatives. The money would then be transferred to a few shell companies before returning to a Hong Kong bank account and then back into his hands,” Wong alleged.

He said the commission searched Ao’s home and three safe deposit boxes rented by Ao in Hong Kong and Macau.

The contents, together with the money in savings accounts and bonds in Macau, Hong Kong and Britain, comprised cash assets worth 790 million patacas, Wong said.

When jewelry, red wine and cigars found in his residence were added to that sum, his assets totaled 804 million patacas, or 57 times the 14 million patacas he and his wife earned from their official posts between 2000 and 2006.

Wong said a few bottles of red wine in Ao’s home were a century old and worth hundreds of thousand of patacas.

“We found 300 bottles of wine in his residence, a few of which were worth up to 400,000 patacas,” he said.

Wong said Ao, who was arrested on a charge of receiving bribes and is being detained in Coloane prison, will be charged with having assets not commensurate with his earnings.

Ao is the highest-ranking Macau SAR official to be held on corruption charges since the former Portuguese colony returned to China in 1999.

Citing “irrefutable evidence” of improper behavior, Macau Chief Executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah in December asked the central government to officially relieve Ao of his duties.

Shortly after Ao’s arrest, Macau legislator Antonio Ng Kuok-cheung called for a full investigation, saying while there had been just one land auction in the seven years following the handover, a total of 300 land grants had been made to property developers in the same period.

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