February 9, 2023

Hong-Kong: A Hong Kong court on Saturday sentenced a pro-democracy media mogul to five years and nine months in prison on two counts of fraud related to rent violations, the latest in a series of cases against prominent activists critics say are designed to spark dissent in the city.

Jimmy Lai, who was arrested in a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement following widespread protests in 2019 and under Beijing-mandated national security law, was also fined 2 million Hong Kong dollars ($377,000 AU).

Jimmy Lai jailed during a trial earlier this year. Credit:AP

His media company, Next Digital, published the now-defunct pro-democracy newspaper apple daily. The publication was forced to close after the arrests of its top executives, editors and journalists last year.

In October, Lai was found guilty of fraud for subletting part of the office space between 2016 and 2020 to a secretarial agency, which he also controlled. an alleged breach of leases from 1998 to 2015.

The court ruled at the time that the relocations violated leases with the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corp. and that Lai had concealed the fact that the company was occupying space in the building.

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Judge Stanley Chan delivered the verdicts on Saturday, saying the violations, which he called “organized and planned,” took place over two decades and that Lai had used his media organization as “an umbrella of protection.”

He said Lai did not feel guilty about the moves, so there was no reason for the court to shorten his prison sentence.

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Lai’s former colleague Wong Wai-keung, who was convicted of a single charge of fraud in the case, will serve 21 months in prison, Chan added.

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