Egan couldn't have said what he didn't believe, court told

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 May, 2006, 12:00am

Barrister Kevin Egan could not have told journalists that a secretary of a listed company was on the ICAC's witness protection programme as he had never believed that this was the case, the District Court heard yesterday.

John McNamara, counsel for Egan, argued in his submission of no case to answer that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that his client believed that Becky Wong Pui-see, a secretary of Semtech International Holdings, had joined the witness protection programme (WPP) when he spoke to then South China Morning Post reporter Magdalen Chow Yin-ling and other reporters on July 15, 2004.

'All the evidence as to what Mr Egan's belief was is that he did not for a moment accept that Becky Wong was in the WPP,' Mr McNamara said. Quoting evidence and transcripts of the habeas corpus proceedings Egan mounted on behalf of the secretary, Mr McNamara said that Egan continued to believe that Ms Wong was held by the Independent Commission Against Corruption against her will even after a government counsel told the court on July 15, 2004, that she was a participant in the WPP.

Egan, 59, solicitor Andrew Lam Ping-cheung, 54, Semtech chairman Derek Wong Chong-kwong, 38, and his lover, Mandy Chui Man-si, 26, are accused of pressuring the ICAC into releasing Ms Wong, a potential witness against Derek Wong in a market manipulation investigation.

They have denied a charge of conspiring to pervert justice and another of breaching the Witness Protection Ordinance by conspiring to disclose Ms Wong's identity to the media. The barrister also denied two alternative counts of attempting to disclose the information to, respectively, Ms Chow and the press. Chui denies perjury.

Earlier, Ms Chow said that Egan did not directly disclose to her the status of Ms Wong. But the journalist claimed it was the 'only reasonable and logical inference' she could draw from what he had told her in two conversations during the habeas corpus proceedings. She also said that the barrister told her to look up the Witness Protection Ordinance after she asked him to define 'protective custody'.

'Even if one accepts the evidence of Magdalen Chow, all that can be said is that she put two and two together and came to the conclusion that Becky Wong was in the WPP,' Mr McNamara argued yesterday. 'What Mr Egan did not tell her directly is that Ms Wong was in the WPP or believed to be in the WPP,' he said.

The counsel said the fact that the secretary had not been signed into the WPP by the ICAC until July 16, 2004 - a point admitted by the prosecution last year - was a fatal flaw in the prosecution case. He also argued that Egan was at all times acting only on the instructions of solicitors. There was no evidence to suggest that Egan would have reasons to suspect anything untoward was happening, he argued.

Prosecutor Martin Wilson QC said that it was never the prosecution case that Egan had told the press specifically that Becky Wong was in the WPP. But Mr Wilson argued that the ordinance was breached as Egan had passed on information to reporters that had the effect of disclosing or intending to disclose Ms Wong's identity.

The case continues today.