3 guilty of ICAC plot, Egan of leak attempts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am

Verdicts reached 2 years after raids on newspaper offices

A veteran lawyer, a former listed company chairman and his lover were convicted yesterday of conspiring to pervert the course of justice in a high-profile case that followed raids by the Independent Commission Against Corruption on several newspaper offices.

Solicitor Andrew Lam Ping-cheung, Semtech International Holdings' former chairman Derek Wong Chong-kwong and Wong's lover, Mandy Chui Man-si, were found guilty of conspiring to pressure the ICAC into releasing Wong's secretary, Becky Wong Pui-see, who was in the witness protection programme.

District Court Chief Judge Barnabas Fung Wah acquitted prominent barrister Kevin Egan of that charge, but convicted him of attempting to disclose Becky Wong's identity to a South China Morning Post reporter.

Egan, 59, and Lam, 54 were acquitted of a joint charge of conspiring to disclose information about the identity of Becky Wong.

Chui was convicted of attempted perjury by submitting false affirmations to support a habeas corpus application for the secretary.

The judge extended bail for Egan, but remanded the other three in custody.

Lam, who said he had had a sleepless night awaiting the verdict, appeared stressed, shaking his head from time to time in the dock. Egan, sitting between Lam and correctional services officers, kept writing instructions to his lawyers.

The prosecution alleged that Egan, Lam, Derek Wong, 38, and Chui, 26, conspired to use the court and the media to press the anti-graft body to release Becky Wong, who they believed would give damaging evidence against her boss in a case in which he is accused of share-price manipulation.

It was alleged that the four launched a habeas corpus application on the secretary's behalf, knowing she was not being unlawfully detained by the ICAC.

Chui was accused of falsely claiming that Becky Wong had spoken to her twice on the phone in a 'faint and trembling voice' and that the secretary had no close family members in Hong Kong.

Egan was convicted of attempting twice on July 15, 2004 to disclose Becky Wong's identity to Magdalen Chow Yin-ling, then chief court reporter of the South China Morning Post. Ms Chow testified under immunity as a witness for the prosecution.

The secretary and her boss were arrested in July 2004 for alleged stock-market manipulation. Becky Wong later agreed to be an ICAC witness under immunity.

The courtroom was packed with lawyers, families of the accused and journalists for the reading of the verdicts in the case, which began with a raid on seven newspapers including the Post - in July 2004 - and involved three months of hearings. At least 15 people were seen standing at the entrance of the courtroom at one point.

The judge skipped the usual breaks in proceedings yesterday, but still said he would need two days to read his ruling, which runs to more than 150 pages. He is expected to explain his reasons for the convictions today.

Derek Wong's lawyer, Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, indicated his client would appeal against his conviction. Lawyers for the others said they would only comment after the judge finished his reading.

There is no law requiring that a lawyer be disqualified for committing an offence.

Philip Dykes, chairman of the Bar Association, said the association's Bar Disciplinary Tribunal would study the seriousness of an offence committed by a barrister before deciding whether to disbar him or her.

A council member of the Law Society said conspiracy to pervert the course of justice was a serious offence and would likely result in a solicitor being struck off.