Suspects - and public - deserve decision
The ICAC's habit of allowing long periods to elapse before charging graft suspects following their arrest and bail is neither in the interest of justice for the accused nor in the public interest. It is also against the interests of minority shareholders of companies whose bosses have been arrested. Share prices are likely to come under severe pressure following news of an arrest; the stock market tends to assume the worst rather than presume the innocence of the suspects before trial.
It's now almost 100 days since the sensational arrests of the Sun Hung Kai Properties tycoon brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen along with former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan. Those arrests were followed by that of the third and eldest Kwok brother, Walter Kwok Ping-sheung. All have been out on bail. The developer is the city's largest by market capitalisation.
As the Sunday Morning Post reported yesterday, they will report back to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on July 13, by which time the Department of Justice is expected to have made a decision on whether to prosecute them or not.
Granted, a case of this nature is bound to be complex. But Hui and the Kwoks are just about the biggest fish the ICAC has ever attempted to catch since its inception in the 1970s. It would defy belief and common sense if ICAC investigators did not already have convincing evidence and a strong case before making such high-profile arrests. Anything less would be the height of irresponsibility and incompetence.
If investigators have done their job properly, it should not be too difficult for the Department of Justice to reach a decision. It is nevertheless possible that it's the prosecutors who are holding up the case, for whatever reasons.
It will be a severe blow to the ICAC if its case against the Kwoks and Hui falls apart, say if charges are not even filed come July 13.
The credibility of two of Hong Kong's key institutions - Sun Hung Kai Properties and the ICAC - is at stake. It's in everyone's interest for prosecutors and the ICAC to make their decision known expeditiously.