With the sniff of cashed-up coppers in their nostrils, vultures blacken the sky

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 January, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 January, 1996, 12:00am

EXPAT police have started to hear the beating of wings, and we don't just mean the difficult decision they face over whether to stay or go in July 1997.

The circling of the vultures is linked to the financial windfall which may accompany early retirement.

Many officers are entitled to lump sum payments under the rules for Her Majesty's Overseas Civil Servants.

This can be as much as GBP120,000 (about HK$1.43 million).

They are also likely to get end-of-contract gratuities and some may also get pensions from the force. In one single department of the police, the sums involved could reach $15 million.

One group of Hong Kongers can actually sense the presence of this sort of dosh through lead doors.

We mean our friends at the Independent Financial Advisers who are paid by commission on sales of financial products.

So rich are the possible pickings that advisers based in Britain have even been nipping over on carpet-bagging missions where they grab a copy of the government directory and hit the telephones.

Indeed, British advisers are increasingly attracted to the traditional targets in the territory: Cathay Pacific Airways pilots, who may have lots of money but can be financial virgins; and lawyers, who have lots of money and wrongly think they are immune to rip-offs.

This is because British rules have been changed so that fee structures now have to be disclosed.

Not surprisingly, the bottom has fallen out of the more lucrative (for the broker) financial products.

The best advice we have is 'never trust someone if, were you in their position, you would be tempted to lie'.

One may also try asking for a complete disclosure of fees.

In the case of a refusal or if one still doesn't quite trust the adviser, it may be a good idea to get a relative or friend in Britain to check out the products and fees using the amendments recently introduced to the country's Financial Services Act.

End of the road GORDON Siu Kwing-chue was the only one of the latest civil service senior appointments unavailable to express his joy at his new job on Tuesday night.

Transport Secretary is a funny job though. No one who gets it seems to hang around the civil service much longer after taking it.

Haider Barma has made it his last post and joins an illustrious list of former transport supremos to chuck it all in and tend the garden.

In Mr Barma's case, the garden is the comfortable and undemanding job of head of the Public Service Commission. Back in the dim and distant 1980s a popular chap called Alan Scott had the post.

He tried to do the usual things that new transport secretaries try to do - sort out traffic and pollution problems, inject sense into the taxi licensing mess, etc.

In return, he ended up not only out of the territory's civil service but also out of Hong Kong.

He ended up as governor of the Cayman Islands but continued to be reviled here for years after his departure because of his support for road pricing.

Yeung Kai-yin, who held the job before Mr Barma, also disappeared off the radar soon after quaffing from the poisoned chalice.

Having been number two to Sir Hamish Macleod, he was widely expected to be the first Chinese financial secretary.

He got transport instead and shortly afterwards defected to Sino Land.

Michael Leung also held the job before taking on the education and manpower mantle. He retired for two weeks and immediately became ICAC commissioner.

We wonder what job Gordon's civil service mates will find for him when the inevitable happens.

Quieter racket OFFICE workers at Causeway Bay's World Trade Centre had just about got used to the constant sound of pneumatic drills banging away at the retail section at the bottom of the building and the attendant dust and mess.

Now, the UFO-like retail 'podium' is complete, the drills are gone (just about) and the shopping centre is vibrant (just about), according to Keith Wollaston of Handley-Walker (HK), who is based in the building.

The shops have all opened with sales, and the restaurants are still building custom. Mr Wollaston notes the jewellery shops can't carry loads of valuable stock because they don't have gun-toting Sikh guards out front.

Nevertheless, the whole place has been given the luxury touch complete with lobby pianist. Office workers know all about it because they now have to take the escalator through the shops to get to the lifts.

'And guess what?' asked Mr Wollaston. 'With all the improvements complete, the office rents are going up.'