I'm not a conspirator, says Munce case witness

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 February, 2007, 12:00am

Businessman accepted immunity from prosecution, tips-for-bets trial hears

A businessman alleged to have acted as middleman for jockey Christopher Munce in a 'tips-for-bets' scam said yesterday he did not consider himself a conspirator.

But Dinesh Kumar Daswani, 31, told the District Court he had felt it would be safer to accept immunity from prosecution in return for testifying. Mr Daswani was being cross-examined by defence barrister John McNamara in the case against the 37-year-old Australian jockey, who has denied a charge of conspiracy to accept advantages.

He is accused of giving tips through Daswani to another businessman, Andy Lau Wai-ching, who would in return place bets on behalf of the jockey - barred by Jockey Club rules from betting himself.

Any winnings on these bets - which were financed by Mr Lau - would be passed to Munce with Mr Daswani taking a 30 per cent commission, the court heard.

Mr Daswani told the court earlier he believed that Munce had pocketed about HK$800,000 in winnings between December 2005 and July last year. Yesterday he told the court he had arranged for Mr Lau, who has not been charged, to place bets for Munce in exchange for the jockey's tips.

Questioning Mr Daswani, Mr McNamara submitted a letter that was signed by the businessman and his uncle Kamal Govindram Daswaney - who had also testified under immunity yesterday - and sent to the South China Morning Post on October 10 last year, accusing the Post of defamation by having named him and his uncle as co-conspirators. Munce is alleged by the ICAC to have conspired with Mr Daswani, Mr Daswaney and Mr Lau to carry out the tips-for-bets scam.

Mr Daswani said he did not consider himself a conspirator, adding: 'I have done something which I did not realise would have breached the club's rules'.

Mr McNamara then asked him: 'If you do not consider you have done anything wrong, why would you accept immunity from the Independent Commission Against Corruption?' The witness replied that it made him feel safer.

The court heard that Mr Daswani was arrested on July 19 last year when he arrived at Chek Lap Kok airport from India.

He said he had been aware of the arrests of Munce and his uncle before returning to Hong Kong and instructed his solicitor to ask the ICAC if he could make 'a non-prejudicial statement'.

He rejected an accusation by Mr McNamara that he had lied about dividend figures to account for cheque payments revealed in his bank account.

Mr Daswani claimed he never had betting arrangements with other jockeys apart from Munce, and said he had introduced Mr Lau to Munce because he heard Mr Lau used to bet for jockeys. He testified that he came to know Mr Lau through a friend, but refused to disclose the name.

Trial judge Kevin Browne is expected to hear evidence from a police gambling expert today.