Egan rejects press conspiracy claim

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 12 May, 2006, 12:00am

Journalists called me routinely, accused barrister tells court

Barrister Kevin Egan yesterday said a case against him was 'bedeviled by conspiracy theories' and claimed that he had no 'grand plan' to involve journalists to pressure the ICAC into releasing a witness.

Egan testified in the District Court that when he spoke on the phone to solicitor Andrew Lam Ping-cheung and Sing Tao Daily reporter Carmen Hsu Hiu-yee between July 13 and 16, 2004, he had no idea that the two had been calling each other at the same time.

The barrister said he routinely received queries from journalists and was not surprised when Hsu phoned him on July 13, 2004. She called to ask about his unsuccessful visit to the ICAC that day to seek access to Becky Wong Pui-see, a potential witness against her boss, Semtech International chairman Derek Wong Chong-kwong.

'I didn't care less how she got hold of [the information],' Egan said when cross-examined by prosecutor Martin Wilson QC. 'If I had, I would assume that it was from Andrew [Lam] because she and Andrew were quite close.'

Egan added that earlier evidence showed that Ms Hsu had been pursuing the case since July 9, when Derek Wong and Becky Wong were arrested for alleged market manipulation.

'There was no conspiracy to involve the press. Things happened event by event by event. There was no grand plan,' he said.

The prosecutor argued Egan would naturally want to find out how Ms Hsu got to know about his legal visit to the ICAC.

'Mr Wilson, the problem is that you are bedeviled by conspiracy theories ... That is absolute fantasy on your part,' Egan replied.

Egan, 59, Lam, 54, Derek Wong, 38, and his lover, Mandy Chui Man-si, 26, are accused of using the press and the courts to try to force the Independent Commission Against Corruption to release Becky Wong. The four deny a joint count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The two lawyers also plead not guilty to charges in relation to disclosing to the press Becky Wong's identity as a participant in the witness protection programme.

The prosecutor argued that the telephone contacts between Egan, Lam and Ms Hsu between July 13 and 16 - when Egan began habeas corpus proceedings for Becky Wong - were evidence of a conspiracy. Egan, who described Lam as a 'telephone terrorist' and a close friend of his, said the rate of Lam's phone calls over the four-day period was nothing unusual.

John McNamara, counsel for Egan, pointed out that Egan never initiated any calls to Ms Hsu, and that he called Lam only three times over the four days.

Egan said that the only journalist he rang during that period was former South China Morning Post reporter Peter Michael, whom he wanted to tell about his 'appalling treatment' by the ICAC. Mr Michael did not answer the call as he was out of town.

The case continues on Monday.