Next Digital case facts clarified

The Security Bureau today expressed regret over the misleading remarks made by members of the Next Digital Board of Directors in their announcement of stepping down from their roles, and considered it necessary to clarify the key facts.   The bureau said that prosecutions and other enforcement actions taken by law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, and for the acts of the people or entities concerned.   The prosecution case has already been stipulated clearly in the allegations submitted by the prosecution to the court in writing during the legal proceedings and supplied to the defendants.   During the stage of mention hearing, the prosecution case will only be disclosed to the defendants, including their legal representatives, but not the general public. The bureau noted that this is the prevailing arrangement in criminal proceedings to ensure that future hearings could be conducted fairly.   Regarding the decisions on freezing properties, the Secretary for Security issued notices for freezing of property in writing pursuant to relevant provisions of Schedule 3 of the Implementation Rules under the National Security Law on two occasions.   They included the freezing of the shares of Next Digital held by Jimmy Lai and the property in the local bank accounts of three overseas companies owned by him in May, as well as the freezing of the property in the local bank accounts, totalling around $18 million, of three subsidiaries related to Apple Daily's publication and online businesses in June.   The bureau emphasised that the written notices for freezing of property issued in June only included the three subsidiaries. Offence related property, which can be subject to freezing actions, is also clearly defined under Schedule 3 of the Implementation Rules.   Law enforcement authorities exercise their powers conferred by the National Security Law, the Implementation Rules and other relevant laws strictly in accordance with the law and procedures, it added.   Meanwhile, Next Digital stated in its announcement in May that the group had sufficient liquidity, and had a working capital of about $520 million as at March 31 which would be sufficient for the company to operate for 18 months from April.   Furthermore, the company made an announcement in July, disclosing that it had made an early loan repayment of $150 million to its former chairman and major shareholder.   The bureau said the situation showed that there is no such thing as Next Digital being forced into liquidation due to a lack of funds arising from enforcement actions.   The company is trying to shift its responsibility by putting the blame of its operational decision on law enforcement actions, with the enforcement authorities which act in accordance with the law as scapegoat, and maliciously smearing the National Security Law.   The bureau also pointed out that according to the previous financial reports of Next Digital, there was still considerable time to go before the loan was due. This casts doubt as to whether such repayment was potentially intended to defraud the company's creditors.   This was one of the key concerns raised when the Financial Secretary earlier announced the appointment of an inspector to investigate the affairs of Next Digital under the Companies Ordinance, it said.   The bureau reiterated that law enforcement authorities will continue to handle the case and pursue legal action strictly in accordance with the law, adding that the public should recognise the facts and avoid being misled.
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