Probe into illegal structures sought
The Buildings Department has been urged to investigate whether illegal structures, especially the basement, at Leung Chun-ying's house existed before he bought it to clear any doubt over any possible liability he faces.
If the additions were built after Leung bought the house in 2000, this could lead to the same criminal liability facing Henry Tang Ying-yen's wife, who is the centre of a probe over the 'underground palace' at her Kowloon Tong house.
Hui Siu-wai, Deputy Director of Buildings, said yesterday staff who inspected Leung's two houses at No4 Peel Rise, The Peak, were unable to determine whether the infringements existed before or after Leung moved in.
'We made some observations, drew up some graphs and took photos. We still need to analyse these,' Hui said.
The 240 sq ft basement beneath a parking space at House 5 is divided into a few rooms.
During a media tour led by Leung himself last night, the chief executive-elect said most of the illegal structures existed before he bought the house: 'This is not a matter of credibility ... My place has always been open, and I never covered up anything, nor was I ever aware these were illegal structures.'
He added that he had hired a professional to inspect the houses before the purchase.
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong, said if the basement existed before Leung bought the houses, there was no criminal liability.
But if it was added afterwards, this would be a possible violation of the Buildings Ordinance. Under section 14 of the law, any unapproved building work would constitute an offence.
'It would be just the same as Henry Tang and his wife's situation. Anyone who knowingly contravenes the law could face prosecution. There should be an investigation into this direction,' Cheung said.
The maximum penalty of such a breach is a fine of HK$400,000 and two years in prison.
Chan Chi-ming, head of construction at the Institute of Vocational Education, agreed on the need for a probe.
He said the Buildings Department should check with the vendor, architects, the lawyer in charge of the transaction and the professional who inspected the houses for Leung.
Another legal issue, Cheung said, was whether Leung had made a false or misleading statement when he ran for the chief executive election.
Critics said Leung had denied having any illegal structures at his home, but so far no written record of him saying so has been found.
A spokesman for the ICAC said it was the agency's job to investigate only if a complaint was substantiated, but they would not comment on any case in particular.
According to Section 26 of the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, it is illegal for anyone to publish a false or misleading statement during the election about a candidate for the purpose of helping or avoiding him to win the election. A conviction carries a fine of up to HK$200,000 and three years in jail.
According to the law, an election petition questioning the chief executive election must be lodged within seven working days after the result is declared.
Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, who lost the chief executive election, said he was seeking legal advice on whether to ask for discretion and lodge a petition.
Ho accused Leung of hiding the truth, yet he cannot remember whether the chief-executive elect has said anything to deny having illegal structures in his election campaign.
In reply to media inquiries, Henry Tang Ying-yen, then chief secretary, denies having illegal structures at his Kowloon Tong home.
Leung Chun-ying, then executive council convenor, invites press to visit his home on The Peak. He reportedly says that he is sure he has no illegal structures.
Media reports say there is an illegal basement under the swimming pool of Tang's home. He plays it down saying it is only a storage space. Leung Chun-ying says he believes Tang will handle the matter well.
Further media revelations suggest Tang's basement has been in use for more than 10 years. Tang says he does not know how big the underground structure is. Buildings Department inspectors are refused entry to his home.
Media reveal floor plan of an illegal 2,250 sq ft basement. Tang says he has not seen the plan.
Buildings Department officers visit Tang's home. He offers an apology and says the illegal work was his wife's idea and that the property belongs to her.
Leung apologises for having an illegal glass enclosure at his house on The Peak. He quickly demolishes it after a press inquiry.
Leung apologises again after Buildings Department inspectors reveal more illegal structures, including a 240 sq ft basement.