The Commission Against Corruption (CCAC) has announced that it will
investigate loans worth 212 million patacas granted by the Macau government about a decade ago to the now defunct local airline Viva Macau.
The city’s graft busters will probe the loans, which were granted in several
instalments in 2008-09, at the request of the Industrial and Commercial
Development Fund (FDIC) of the Economic Services Bureau (DSE), according to a CCAC statement issued on Friday.
The loans, which were never repaid, were guaranteed by Hong Kong-based Eagle Airways.
Viva Macau went out of business in 2010 when the government revoked its
operating licence, claiming that it was not compliant with the official
requirements for public air transport services.
The loans were granted by the fund after Viva Macau had hit financial
turbulence in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2007-08.
The CCAC move comes after the Court of Final Appeal (TUI) announced on July 22 that it had decided to terminate its distraint procedures requested by the FDIC against Eagle Airways due to the latter’s capacity as Viva Macau’s guarantor.
A DSE statement also issued on July 22 said that the bureau had been unable to recover the Viva Macau loans from its guarantor.
According to previous media reports, Viva Macau went belly up in March 2010 with debts totalling 1.14 billion patacas, involving 1,841 creditors, 35 of them owed more than one million patacas each.
Eagle Airways was reportedly Viva Macau’s main creditor, involving 469
million patacas. The bureau’s fund came in second with 212 million patacas.
Viva Macau was in business between 2006 and 2010, flying to seven
destinations in Australia and Asia with three aircraft. Its slogan was “We
mean the world to Macau.” Viva Macau operated as a sub-concession of Air Macau.
Meanwhile, the Macau Legislative Assembly’s Follow-up Committee on Public Finance Affairs urged the government last week to review the fund’s modus operandi of granting loans.
In a related development, Secretary for Economy and Finance Lionel Leong Vai Tac told reporters on the sidelines of a public function on Friday that the government “insists on recovering the amount [Viva Macau loans] through civil procedures.” Leong also said that government lawyers would continue to follow up the case, admitting that the Viva Macau debt issue had caused concern in civil society and among lawmakers.
Leong oversees the fund that granted the Viva Macau loans.
According to the Portuguese local paper Hoje Macau, businessman Kevin Ho is a director in the Eagle Airways.
Kevin Ho is also a shareholder of the Portuguese media group Global Media.
Local Fujianese businessman Ngan In Leng was Viva Macau’s chairman.
“We mean the world to Macau,” was the company slogan.