Cigarette smuggling case to run its course

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2007, 12:00am

The prosecution of a cigarette smuggling case will not be halted, a District Court judge has ruled in response to doubts cast on the evidence.

Defence teams had contested the legality of the investigation, arguing that evidence collected with a bugging device installed by graft busters should be ruled inadmissible because it violated the Basic Law.

Judge Joseph Yau Chi-lap yesterday reserved giving a full reason for his refusal until the end of the trial.

Three company executives are being accused of involvement in syndicated smuggling of the Double Happiness brand of cigarettes supplied by Nanyang Brothers Tobacco to the mainland via another country.

The evidence had been collected by bugging the office of Ko Kit, 36, one of the three defendants and director of Hang Chun Trade Development. She has pleaded not guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges.

The defence had argued the bug recorded an embarrassing private act and so breached Ko's right to privacy as guaranteed by the Basic Law.

Another recording, taped after Ko's arrest, was of her conversation with her lawyer discussing legal fees and breached her rights of legal professional privilege under the Basic Law, the defence teams contended.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption collected more than 160 tapes between January and February 2004 after three agents infiltrated Hang Chun as driver, receptionist and clerk and installed the audio-visual recording devices.

Lu Dayong, 57, then executive director of Nanyang, and Chan Kai-san, 37, sales manager of Hang Chun, are co-defendants. A pretrial hearing continues today on the admissibility of the evidence.