Accused chairman the victim of 'bad blood', court is told

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 May, 2006, 12:00am

The head of a publicly listed company accused of conspiring with others to pervert justice was an unwitting victim of the 'crossfire' between the ICAC and a lawyer described as a 'thorn in their side', a court heard yesterday.

In his closing submission, Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, for Derek Wong Chong-kwong, chairman of Semtech International Holdings, argued that the Independent Commission Against Corruption refused to allow barrister Kevin Egan access to Wong's secretary, Becky Wong Pui-see, because of 'bad blood' between the two parties.

Egan paid two legal visits to Ms Wong on July 13 and 14, 2004. ICAC officers who testified earlier admitted they had not told the secretary about Egan's visits, saying she had never asked for a lawyer.

The prosecution contends that Becky Wong, who was arrested with her boss on July 9, 2004 for alleged corruption, had been admitted to the witness protection programme on July 13, 2004. But the defence argues that the ICAC only signed her on to the programme on July 16, 2004.

'If the ICAC had told Becky Wong [that Egan had come to see her], I am sure the whole event would have happened differently,' Mr Lok said. Former government counsel Bernard Ryan agreed during his testimony that the ICAC saw Egan, who had won many high-profile cases against the commission, as 'a thorn in their side'.

Mr Lok also suggested that Egan might have adopted an 'unnecessarily aggressive approach' towards the ICAC because of the thorny relationship. 'My client was unwittingly caught in the middle of an ongoing feud between the two sides,' he said.

Egan was hired by Mandy Chui Man-si, the lover of Derek Wong, to ascertain Becky Wong's status with the ICAC, and subsequently launched a habeas corpus application on behalf of the secretary.

The prosecution says Egan, solicitor Andrew Lam Ping-cheung, Derek Wong and Chui launched a campaign involving the media and the court to try to pressure the ICAC into releasing the secretary, a potential witness against the Semtech chairman in a market manipulation investigation.

The four have pleaded not guilty to a joint count of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The two lawyers deny charges related to disclosing the secretary's status as a member of the witness protection programme to the press.

In his closing submission yesterday, prosecutor Martin Wilson QC accused Egan of telling lies to the court.

The case continues in the District Court today.