Official stole tax records: ICAC

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2007, 12:00am

Man faces court over copied taxpayer data

Personal data for thousands of taxpayers has allegedly been stolen by a government tax officer who will appear in court tomorrow charged with misconduct in public office.

Taxation officer Chu King-kwok allegedly copied names, addresses and ID-card numbers submitted by 13,400 taxpayers for his 'future personal use', according to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Following investigations by anti-corruption officers, the tax officer was charged yesterday with misconduct in public office for offences allegedly committed between 2004 and last year.

The anti-graft agency refused to disclose how Chu planned to use the data.

Last year three people were prosecuted for misconduct in public office following ICAC investigations.

This latest case follows disclosures last year that the Independent Police Complaints Council published the names, addresses, telephone numbers and identity-card numbers of 10,000 members of the public who made complaints against police.

This led to widespread calls for better protection of the public's personal data.

Chu, who has been released on ICAC bail, will appear before Eastern Court.

According to the ICAC, the taxation officer copied down on paper the personal data of thousands of taxpayers over 21/2 years.

The ICAC launched an investigation following a complaint.

Following their inquiries, the graft-busters found that Chu had allegedly copied names, identity-card numbers, business registration numbers, addresses and phone numbers between April 2004 and November 2006.

The ICAC said he had then removed the copied data from his office.

Chu was working in the Inland Revenue Department's document processing centre at the time and was responsible for sorting incoming mail from taxpayers.

The tax department refused to comment yesterday, other than to say it had 'rendered full assistance to the ICAC's investigation'.

But the acting commissioner of inland revenue, Tam Kuen-chong, insisted his department 'attached great importance to the protection of taxpayers' information, which was essential to the integrity of Hong Kong's taxation system'.

He said that, since 1999, a mechanism had been in place to randomly select and log online inquiries, for later review. This was to ensure that officers made inquiries only in line with their duties.

He said the department had adopted 'a zero-tolerance policy for violating the integrity of taxpayers' information, or for handling it improperly'.

'As a general rule, officers are not permitted to take taxpayers' or other departmental files or records out of the office unless it is necessary for them to do so in the performance of their duties,' Mr Tam said.