Democratic legislator refused to discuss rent blunder

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 17 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 17 July, 2005, 12:00am

The Democratic Party yesterday revealed James To Kun-sun had refused to be interviewed for an internal investigation into a rent blunder, but the party declined to take any disciplinary action against him.

The investigation report failed to make concrete recommendations as both Mr To and fellow Democrat Stanley Ng Wing-fai declined to be interviewed by a three-member panel.

Chairman Lee Wing-tat said nobody from the party's central committee had demanded Mr To quit the Legislative Council or the party. 'The report did not question his integrity,' Mr Lee said.

During the September Legco election, Mr To was accused of paying above-market rent for an office in Shamshuipo owned by Target Link. He then claimed the money back in expenses but failed to declare his holdings in the company, which he claimed he held in trust for the party.

Mr To apologised to the public for the confusion caused by the incident, but reiterated that he did not receive any 'concrete benefits'.

He said his failure to attend the panel meetings were due to 'problems of communications and time arrangements', and added he had provided detailed written documents to the panel.

The party said Mr To had agreed to return $135,900 to Legco and a district council. The monthly rent of $13,800 received by Target Link over 18 months was 'substantially in excess' of market rental evaluated by Sallmanns and Chesterton Petty, two independent surveyors commissioned by the panel.

The panel, set up by the party to investigate the claims in October last year, unearthed a series of 'inconsistencies' between what Mr To claimed and documents they were given. They included an audited account for the party, ending March 1998, which did not mention any party shareholding in Target Link or any interest in the property.

The report expressed doubts that the party had been the beneficial owner of shares in the property since May 1997.

Mr To and Mr Ng - both directors of Target Link - provided as 'proof' two undated documents to the press on August 23 last year that the shares they held were in trust for the party.

The report said the suspicion remained that the documents were only prepared just beforehand in response to the press revelations and 'as a cover for James To's failure to declare his interest in the company'.