ICAC told to reveal identity of wiretapper

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2006, 12:00am

You cannot just say officer does not remember call, judge tells graft buster

The prosecution case that the ICAC could not disclose details of a monitored telephone conversation because the officer in charge had no memory of it 'flies in the face of common sense', the judge in the trial of veteran lawyers Kevin Egan and Andrew Lam Ping-cheung said yesterday.

The comment in the District Court was made after a defence lawyer raised concerns that the anti-graft body had not fully disclosed information that could be critical to the case.

Egan, 58, Lam, 53, Semtech International Holdings chairman Derek Wong Chong-kwong, 37, and Wong's lover Mandy Chui Man-si, 25, are accused of conspiring in a campaign involving the court and the press to pressure the ICAC into releasing Becky Wong Pui-see, a potential witness against Derek Wong in a separate corruption case.

Graham Harris, representing Lam, said yesterday that intelligence material provided by the ICAC showed it had intercepted a call between Chui and Becky Wong on July 11, 2004. This is the same day the prosecution alleged Becky Wong told Chui on the phone that she was safe and sound with ICAC officers.

'We assume there was at one stage either a tape recording of that call and/or a transcript of the conversation and/or a note taken by the listener,' said Mr Harris. But he said the ICAC's reply was that 'no original source of material remains in existence'.

He said his request to the prosecution weeks ago for the identity of the listener, who he described as a potentially important 'ear witness' in the case, had been ignored. He had also asked for the transcript of the conversation, and, if it had been destroyed, the reason why.

Prosecutor Roger Beresford told the court there was no material about the call to disclose. He said the officer who monitored the call had no memory of it, which was not unusual since officers often had to listen to all sorts of conversations.

District Court Chief Judge Barnabas Fung Wah ruled that the ICAC had to disclose the identity of the officer. 'It flies in the face of common sense. An ICAC officer heard something which can ultimately become the crux of the prosecution case. You can't just say 'I don't remember anything'. That would be the end of criminal trials in Hong Kong,' he said.

Mr Harris also asked the prosecution to produce minutes of the periodic meetings held by the ICAC's witness security panel to review Becky Wong's situation after July 13, 2004. He said the minutes would be vital evidence to indicate whether there was any decision by the graft buster to remove her from the witness protection programme or by Ms Wong herself to withdraw from the programme.

But the prosecutor said the minutes in question were taken after the period of the alleged conspiracy and so would be protected from disclosure. The judge disagreed.

The four defendants have denied a joint charge of perverting the course of public justice. The two lawyers have also pleaded not guilty to a joint charge of conspiracy to disclose information to journalists about the identity of Becky Wong. Egan has also denied two alternative counts of attempting to disclose information to a former South China Morning Post reporter, Magdalen Chow Yin-ling.

The first prosecution witness, Becky Wong, is expected to testify today.