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Friday, February 17, 2017, 22:50

Tsang found guilty of misconduct in office

By Luis Liu, Li Yinze and Shadow Li

Tsang found guilty of misconduct in office
Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang leaves the High Court after verdicts were handed down on Feb 17, 2017. (Roy Liu/China Daily)

HONG KONG - Hong Kong’s former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was convicted on one count of misconduct in public office for failing to declare a conflict of interest.

This makes him the highest-ranking official in the city’s history to be convicted of such a crime.

The offences were linked to his dealings with local radio company Wave Media’s applications for a radio license. He did not report to the Executive Council his connection with the company’s part owner, Bill Wong Chor-bau, while they were negotiating over a Shenzhen penthouse Tsang was going to retire to.

The misconduct charge carries a maximum of seven years in jail.

He was granted bail until Monday after the jury handed down an 8:1 verdict. He silently left the court with his wife and family.

The jury also unanimously decided that Tsang was innocent of another count of misconduct in public office – failure to declare his connection to interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai when nominating him for a medal of honor.

Ho was the designer behind the HK$3.5 million renovation of the Shenzhen apartment Tsang planned to live in after retiring.

The other charge of a Chief Executive accepting an advantage remained undecided.

The judge discharged the jury and announced the court will resume on Monday. The court may further debate the charge of accepting an advantage.

Under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, for a Chief Executive to accept an advantage is punishable by a maximum fine of HK$500,000 and seven years in jail.

The other charge of a Chief Executive accepting an advantage remained undecided

The charges centered on a 6,700-square-foot three-story luxury penthouse in Shenzhen which Tsang rented from Bill Wong, a major shareholder of radio broadcaster Wave Media.

The broadcaster was later renamed Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong (DBC) and had its license application approved by the then Executive Council led by Tsang. However, Tsang was accused of failing to disclose his connection with Wong.

On Friday, the jury had requested the judge to clarify the definitions of “bribe” and “conflict of interest” in connection with Tsang’s charge over accepting advantage. The judge said they should comprehend the meanings themselves with reference to civil service regulations, as there is no exact definition in the law books.

The jury was also asked whether they believed Tsang had received an advantage from Wong. But they could not be sure whether it was linked to Tsang’s granting of the radio license to Wong’s partly owned company.

The judge repeated what he said in his initial directions that the prosecution accepted that they had to establish this connection - although this is not always necessary in corruption cases.

On Thursday, the jurors raised a further question on a separate misconduct charge. They wanted to make sure whether they were certain of a direct link between the government’s awarding of the radio license to the DBC and Wong’s alleged provision of free renovations for the Shenzhen apartment.

Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said it would be up to the prosecution to decide whether or not to pursue the charge of a CE taking an advantage - after the jury was dismissed for being unable to reach a majority vote.

He further explained that in this case, the prosecutor would normally wait for the sentence on the convicted count. If the sentence is severe enough, for example, reaching nearly the maximum term of imprisonment of seven years, the prosecution might not seek a retrial on the first count, Luk explained.

If the prosecution does decide to go ahead with a retrial on the first count, a new jury will be selected, said Luk. He added that in no case would the verdict of the first count be handed down by the judge.

But Luk also noted that Tsang might not be sentenced to the maximum period of imprisonment with mitigation still pending.

Tsang found guilty of misconduct in office
(Graphic by Alex Tang/China Daily)

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