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HK graft police arrest property tycoon brothers

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KELVIN CHAN | March 30, 2012 02:31 AM EST | AP


HONG KONG — Two billionaire brothers who run Hong Kong's biggest property developer and a former senior government official were arrested for suspected corruption, stunning the Chinese financial center and sending the company's shares into a tailspin.

Thomas and Raymond Kwok, joint chairmen and managing directors of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., were arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the company said Thursday evening.

The anti-corruption watchdog said it also arrested a former senior official whom it did not name. Local news reports said the official was a former chief secretary – the No. 2 job_ of the semiautonomous Chinese territory.

Both groups said the arrests were for bribery. Sun Hung Kai said it's required to hand over information relating to the allegations after the ICAC served a search warrant.

Local broadcaster RTHK said the three were released late Thursday night.

The arrests shocked the southern Chinese financial center, where tycoons have traditionally been revered. That reverence has turned into revulsion lately amid a growing rich-poor gap that has fueled public anger and fears that property developers have too much influence on the government, which controls all the land in the compact, densely populated city.

Five people, including another Sun Hung Kai executive, were arrested earlier.

Sun Hung Kai is Hong Kong's biggest property developer by market value. The company's shares plunged 13.7 percent on Friday.

The Kwok family is one of Asia's richest, with a net worth of $18.3 billion, according to Forbes. Their company built some of Hong Kong's most famous buildings, including the 118-story International Commerce Center, the city's tallest building.

A third brother, Walter Kwok, was ousted as chairman and chief executive in 2008 following a legal feud with the other two.

Sun Hung Kai said the arrests would not affect the company's business operations and the board voted unanimously to let the pair continue in their roles.

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