Munce case creates stir

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2007, 12:00am

If Hong Kong wanted to attract the attention of the world in 2006-07, the Chris Munce arrest case certainly did that.

Yesterday was the anniversary of Munce's arrest in the ICAC swoop that initially alleged the jockey received HK$1.6 million, won in bets made on his behalf on horses he rode, in return for tips to a group of businessmen.

In the court case that ended on March 1, a lesser monetary figure (around HK$1 million) was produced, but the court found charges under the Bribery Ordinance proved and sentenced the Australian to 30 months' jail.

It was an extraordinary climax to an extraordinary case. No allegations of malpractice were aimed at Munce as far as stopping horses or attempting to influence others to not win, and there was no suggestion he had done anything but tip his rides and try to win on them.

In other jurisdictions - even where such laws might exist that could jail the jockey - such a 'crime' would be dealt with under racing rules rather than by a court and most likely lose the jockey his licence, not his liberty.

For all that, there appeared to be little public sympathy for the rider.

Munce has now served four months. Some legal opinion has it that, with good conduct, his time served may be 20 months. The proposition of appeal remains, though the grapevine view - which drew a no comment from Munce's legal team - is that there are mixed feelings in the camp, due to expense, prospects and extent of success, and the long wait for a hearing. With no appeal, Munce may undertake to have his time served in Australia, under an existing agreement between Australia and Hong Kong, which might make it possible for him to be closer to his family.

And there remains the potentially explosive inquiry by the Jockey Club stewards into the same matter. Briefly opened and closed two days after his arrest, it will be reconvened when the process through the courts is concluded.