Ex-prosecutor 'can't recall' ICAC seeking OK on witness' immunity

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2006, 12:00am

A former government prosecutor empowered to grant immunity to suspects could not recall if the ICAC had sought his approval before it gave a company secretary immunity in a corruption case, he told a court yesterday.

The defence counsel for solicitor Andrew Lam Ping-cheung requested the District Court allow Bernard Ryan, then senior assistant director of public prosecutions, to review documents to refresh his memory on the case of Becky Wong Pui-see. Lam and barrister Kevin Egan are accused of revealing to reporters in July 2004 the identity of Ms Wong, a protected witness.

Mr Ryan also agreed with the defence that the government's offer of immunity against prosecution not only to Magdalen Chow Yin-ling, formerly chief court reporter of the South China Morning Post and a prosecution witness, but also to all other editorial staff of the newspaper, was unprecedented in his many years of public service.

Graham Harris, for Lam, pointed out Mr Ryan or his superiors in the Department of Justice had to authorise granting immunity to a suspect or placing them in the witness protection programme, having regard to their non-prejudicial statements to ICAC officers.

Mr Ryan said he recalled someone from the Independent Commission Against Corruption calling him on July 9, 2004, for approval for the taking of a non-prejudicial statement from Ms Wong.

The prosecution case is that the secretary gave her signed consent to enter the witness protection programme on July 13, 2004.

'On the 11th, 12th, 13th of July, were you consulted ... by ICAC officers in charge of the investigation as to whether or not immunity was approved?' Mr Harris asked Mr Ryan. 'No, I was not,' the witness said. Mr Ryan said it was possible his second-in-command, Alex Lee, was consulted.

'But all those [documents] had to be signed by you. Did Mr Lee talk to you about it?' the counsel asked.

'No, I can't recall him talking to me,' said the witness.

Lam, 53, Egan, 58, Semtech International Holdings chairman Derek Wong Chong-kwong, 37, and his lover, Mandy Chui Man-si, 25, who are accused of launching a campaign to pressure the ICAC into releasing Ms Wong, the Semtech company secretary - a potential witness against Derek Wong in a corruption case - have pleaded not guilty to a joint charge of conspiracy of pervert the course of justice. The two lawyers deny a joint charge of revealing Ms Wong's identity to the press. Egan has also denied alternate charges of disclosing the secretary's identity to Ms Chow. Chui denies a charge of perjury.

The hearing continues today.