Friday, February 12, 1999

Grand jury hears
case against Wong

The Bishop trustee had tried
to block the proceeding

By Rick Daysog


An Oahu grand jury investigating Bishop Estate trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong's alleged role in a controversial Hawaii Kai land deal met to hear testimony from several witnesses close to Wong.

During a six-hour session yesterday, the secret panel questioned Wong's secretary, Ernella Kam, and the estate's in-house attorney, Nathan Aipa.

The grand jury -- convened by state Attorney General Margery Bronster -- also heard testimony from Wong's accountant, Edwin Kobashigawa, and local real estate appraiser Ken Teshima.

Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Goya declined comment on the proceedings. He also had no response when asked if the grand jury plans to reconvene.

Based on recent court papers, the grand jury subpoenaed the witnesses to testify about Wong's alleged role in the sale of the estate's fee interest to the 229-unit Kalele Kai condominium project.

According to the Attorney General's office, Wong and fellow trustee Henry Peters received kickbacks worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wong's brother-in-law, Jeffrey Stone, after Stone received a sweetheart deal on the Kalele Kai transaction.

Peters, Stone and Wong, who is chairman of the estate's five-member board of trustees, have denied the allegations.

Wong has said that he recused himself from negotiations related to the Kalele Kai project.

Eric Seitz, Wong's attorney, said he does not expect the grand jury to indict Wong based on the evidence witnesses have presented. He believes the panel will not reconvene until jurisdictional challenges are settled in a separate Circuit Court proceeding.

Peters, Stone and local businessman Leighton Mau have asked Circuit Judge Michael Town to throw out a November grand jury indictment against them involving the same Kalele Kai transaction.

They feel Bronster does not have the proper legal authority to conduct a criminal investigation, and that her simultaneous criminal and civil investigation represents a conflict.

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