Outsider tipped to be new tax chief after embarrassing scandals

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 26 February, 2001, 12:00am

Tax professionals are tipping an appointment from the private sector for Hong Kong's new tax commissioner, expected to be announced within weeks after the retirement of stand-in Elmo de Souza.

Some quoted rumours that PricewaterhouseCoopers' Jonathan Fewtrell is a candidate for the job.

The sources said the position had been tainted with scandal in recent times and a fresh appointment was urgently needed to reduce uncertainty.

Former commissioner Wong Ho-sang was sacked after he was found to have handled cases involving a taxation consultancy run by his wife.

He had allegedly failed to declare his interests as required.

Then deputy commissioner Agnes Sin Law Yuk-lin stepped in and was mooted as the next commissioner.

But she was convicted of housing allowance fraud in December last year along with her husband. When Mrs Sin was forced to leave her post, another deputy commissioner, Mr Souza, was promoted temporarily to fill the commissioner's shoes, but he retires from the Civil Service at the end of this month.

Talk on who the new commissioner could be remains sketchy.

After the recent embarrassing scandals, the candidate's identity will not be revealed until after rigorous investigations, and a temporary commissioner may be needed to fill in before the permanent appointee takes the position.

'It is rumoured to be a Westerner and an outsider, from the profession in Hong Kong,' a tax partner at a leading firm said last week.

Another said the rumoured candidate 'has been in town for 14 years'.

Either way, within the industry the appointment is generating a lot of interest, considering previous commissioners and deputies have been plagued by legal problems.

'There is a lot of talk going on but that is to be expected,' another tax specialist said.

'I think it is a very prestigious position, but they have to do it for public service reasons.'

One partner in an international firm said he would like to see the new commissioner technically implement the rules as they are.

'I think there was always a technical justification for the rules, but previously, if there was no cost to Hong Kong's revenue, it was OK,' he said.