ICAC staff suspended over graft allegations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 March, 1998, 12:00am

Six ICAC officers have been suspended from duty - the biggest swoop on internal misconduct in the agency for at least a decade.

Four middle-ranking investigators have been barred because they 'were suspected to have disclosed confidential information on ICAC work to unauthorised persons for a corrupt purpose', a statement from the graft-fighting body said last night. No details of the alleged disclosure were released.

In addition, one middle-ranking and one junior officer have been suspended on separate matters.

'One was alleged to have unlawfully borrowed money from a colleague to settle personal debts, while the other was suspected of misconduct in connection with his duties,' the statement said. All six had been implicated in internal investigations.

Politicians backed the commission, saying they were confident procedures were in place to make sure internal investigations did not turn into purges.

Ousted legislator and Democratic Party security spokesman James To Kun-sun warned against excessive speculation on the scale of corruption in the agency, which has 902 operations staff. 'I think it is a very serious matter, but I still have confidence in the ICAC,' he said.

Fellow ousted legislator Christine Loh Kung-wai, who sat on the review committee that combed the agency's activities in 1994, said: 'There is a system to make sure that the investigation is not just an internal tiff.' The Operations Review Committee, chaired by prominent solicitor Anna Wu Hung-yuk, receives reports on all internal investigations. The Department of Justice must approve all prosecution decisions.

An internal monitoring unit, known as Department L, operates under the Director of Investigations (private sector), away from the main operations staff.

In addition, a right of appeal has limited the power of the commissioner to summarily sack staff without giving reasons.

Miss Loh said the right was introduced after the sacking of then deputy commissioner Alex Tsui Ka-kit.

In 1993, Mr Tsui became the highest-profile ICAC officer to be caught by an internal investigation.

None of the six staff has been charged. Two of the four alleged to have been involved in disclosure were arrested over the weekend. They were released pending inquiries.

An assistant director is in charge of the internal investigation.

The last employees to face action after allegations of leaks were an assistant director and his wife, who worked in the crime prevention unit.

Trish Williams was summarily sacked without notice in 1991 and her husband, John, was refused a new contract after an inquiry into a leak of the investigation into corrupt government lawyer Warwick Reid.