SCMP- The mystery surrounding the identity of a Hong Kong-based diamond buyer who now owns three of the world’s most expensive gems has been revealed: billionaire fugitive Joseph Lau Luen-hung has confirmed to the South China Morning Post that he was the buyer of the diamonds, and that he had renamed them after his seven-year-old daughter Josephine.
The rare and flawless 12.03 carat “Blue Moon Diamond” sold on Wednesday for 48.6 million Swiss francs (US$48.4 million), setting world records for any gemstone at auction, Sotheby’s said.
Lau, the former chairman of Chinese Estates Holdings, is listed by Forbes as the sixth richest man in Hong Kong and 114th wealthiest globally, with estimated assets worth US$9.8 billion as of November.
He is also a fugitive, after being jailed in absentia in Macau in March last year for his part in a bribes-for-land racket involving Ao Man-long, the most corrupt public official ever brought to justice in the city’s history. He received a five-year jail term, but has not served one day in prison because the former Portuguese enclave does not have an extradition treaty with Hong Kong.
Macau’s Court of Second Instance yesterday rejected appeals by Lau and Steven Lo Kit-sing against their bribery and money laundering convictions. The court upheld sentences of five years and three months against the pair.
The sale came only one day after Lau paid 28.7 million Swiss francs for a magnificent 16.08 carat pink diamond at Christie’s.
The pink stone was promptly renamed the “Sweet Josephine”. The blue has been renamed “The Blue Moon of Josephine”.
Josephine’s mother is Lau’s girlfriend, called Chan Hoi-wan, a former entertainment reporter.
The cushion-shaped blue stone, mounted on a ring, has the top grading of fancy vivid blue. A pre-sale estimate put its value at between US$35 million and US$55 million.
“It is a new record price for any gemstone and per carat,” David Bennett, worldwide chairman of Sotheby’s international jewellery division, told a packed showroom in Geneva that erupted into applause on Wednesday.
Lau and fellow Hong Kong property developer Steven Lo Kit-sing were each given jail sentences of five years and three months by Macau’s Court of First Instance last year after being found guilty of corruption and money laundering. But they will not serve any time unless they return to the city voluntarily.
The court found that Lau and Lo offered a HK$20 million bribe to disgraced public works chief Ao Man-long to secure the site for their La Scala luxury development.
Lau is also known as a collector of artworks and wine. His passion for art was revealed when he snapped up Andy Warhol’s famous painting of Mao Zedong for US$17.4 million and Paul Gauguin’s 1892 painting Te Poipoi (The Morning) for US$39.2 million – the highest amount paid by a Hongkonger for an artwork.
Lau paid a record HK$1.4 million for a car number plate bearing the characters “1 LOVE U” during a Transport Department auction of personalised plates in 2006.
The plate was used on a Mercedes-Benz for his partners, according to local media reports.
First things first. Fuck I wish this guy was my uncle or something. Rich, hostile business man and kind of bad ass because he’s a fugitive money laundering and bribing city officials and doesn’t have to go to jail unless he wants to go back to that city. He’s probably bribe his way out of that shit too. But onto the main part of the story.
48 mill for a diamond ring. Let that sink in. When I was a kid my favorite toy was this plastic T-Rex. Took him everywhere. Went with me to school, took him to the doctors office, everywhere. Guy was in my hand 24/7. One of the most devastating things to happen to me in my entire life was the day I lost that toy T-Rex. It was at a McDonalds ball pit. Should’ve left it inside or in the car but I just had to take it with me everywhere I went. Diving in the sea of Multi colored plastic balls my hands just opened a little and it was gone. No chance of me seeing that T-Rex ever again. There I was just sweeping balls across to try to find his tiny little hand for me to grasp and hold on to so i can drag him to safety but he was lost forever in that sea. That t-rex probably cost $5 dollars so it didn’t mean shit to my parents. Well one day I hope Josephine or who ever wears that absurd diamond ring as she dives into the McDonalds Ball pit and feel her finger get incrementally lighter until she realizes that that rock got swallowed into the ocean of plastic rainbow colored balls. (to scale $48 million might be the same as 5 dollars to a billionaire real estate tycoon so whatever. I hate that they’re rich and im not and i miss my toy T-Rex.)