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Thursday, January 28, 2016, 08:15

No charges for former ICAC chief

By Shadow Li in Hong Kong
No charges for former ICAC chief
This undated file photo captures former head of ICAC Timothy Tong Hin-ming. (Photo provide to China Daily)

The former chief of the city’s anti-graft watchdog Timothy Tong Hin-ming will not face a graft charge after the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it would not press charges against him over his lavish spending on meals, gifts and trips.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said on Wednesday there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction for the charges of misconduct in public office against Tong.

In 2013, Tong was found to have excessively bought expensive gifts and souvenirs, and taken excessive duty visits outside Hong Kong during his term as the head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) from 2007 to 2012. Tong was alleged to have spent a total of HK$1.3 million on buying gifts and taken 413 duty visits that incurred a total expenditure of HK$12.6 million during his five-year term.

Both the Ombudsman and a report by an independent review committee set up by the government noted up to 18 expenditures which violated ICAC regulations.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung Kar-hung said that for conduct by public servants there was a fine line between that which would incur criminal liability and that which would only warrant disciplinary action.

Tong’s behavior, though perhaps morally unacceptable, was not severe enough to incur criminal prosecution, Yeung added.

He explained that the department came to the decision after carefully considering every element of the six potential offenses that Tong might have committed.

No charges for former ICAC chief
Keith Yeung Kar-hung (left), director of public prosecutions, said that there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against the former ICAC chief. (Parker Zheng / China Daily)
The DOJ hired Jonathan Caplan, an independent overseas Queen’s Counsel, to offer his opinion on pursuing Tong’s case. In October, Caplan concluded there was not sufficient evidence to commence a criminal prosecution against Tong. The department’s prosecution division agreed with Caplan’s observations after assessment.

Speaking at the ICAC’s headquarters in North Point shortly after Yuen’s announcement, ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said the ICAC had already plugged the loophole in its regulations to avoid the recurrence of a case such as Tong’s.

Although admitting the case would affect the ICAC’s image, Peh said it had provided an opportunity for the anti-graft watchdog to review its internal regulations.

But the graft buster will conduct an internal disciplinary probe into possible breaches by ICAC staff involved in the case. The ICAC will also refer Tong’s case to the Civil Service Bureau, as part of Tong’s term was on secondment from the bureau.

Peh added the independent investigation group established to look into Tong’s case had conducted a comprehensive investigation, with 8,000 pages of documents and 120 witnesses involved.
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