Thursday, January 14, 1999

Grand jury
looks at estate
trustee Wong

Wong, accused of receiving
kickbacks in a Bishop deal, seeks
to halt today's hearing

By Rick Daysog


An Oahu grand jury met today to investigate Bishop Estate trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong's involvement in a Hawaii Kai land deal involving his brother-in-law Jeffrey Stone.

The 16-member panel -- which previously voted to indict Stone and estate trustee Henry Peters on criminal charges -- this morning heard testimony from Stone's secretary, Jeanne Murata, and his comptroller, Kendall Kim.

The grand jury -- impaneled on Sept. 16 at the request of Attorney General Margery Bronster -- also subpoenaed Wong's secretary and his personal accountant.

The witnesses are being questioned about the estate's $21.9 million sale of the fee interest to the 229-unit Kalele Kai upscale condominium project to a partnership involving Stone. Bronster had previously argued that Stone gave kickbacks to Wong and Peters by acquiring the trustees' Makiki condos for inflated prices.

Stone, indicted on commercial bribery and conspiracy charges, and Peters, indicted for one count of theft, have denied the allegations. Wong also denied wrongdoing, saying he recused himself from board decisions involving Kalele Kai.

Wong previously was questioned by the grand jury on Nov. 25 over the Kalele Kai deal. At the time, Wong's attorney Eric Seitz said that Wong answered all of the panel's inquiries and would cooperate with its investigation.

Seitz today said he had asked Federal Judge Alan Kay for a temporary restraining order to block today's grand jury proceedings. As of late morning, Kay had not ruled on the request.

The grand jury proceedings were disclosed in state Circuit Court this morning during a hearing on Stone's motion to quash subpoenas for Murata's and Kim's testimony. Circuit Judge Michael Town denied the motion.

John Edmunds, Stone's attorney, argued that the attorney general's office had no authority to convene the grand jury. But state attorney Lawrence Goya said the office is responsible for overseeing the estate's interests.

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