Accused urged to waive confidentiality privilege

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am

In a rare move, a prosecutor yesterday asked a defendant in a fraud case to waive the client confidentiality privilege of his lawyer.

This was despite a ruling last week by presiding judge Garry Tallentire, who said that privilege was protected under the Basic Law.

Prosecutor Joseph Tse made the unusual request to former warrants trader Cheung Ching-ho, who was among five people arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2008 for trying to manipulate the derivatives market and laundering more than HK$100 million generated by an alleged scam.

Cheung, 39, was originally offered immunity from prosecution, but later refused to testify against the alleged mastermind of the scam, Raymond Ng Chun-to. Cheung was then charged with conspiracy to defraud.

Cheung later accused three ICAC officers of coaching him as a witness. His lawyers are trying to get the proceedings stayed on the grounds that he would not get a fair trial.

ICAC officers Ben Chan Kai-hung, 36, Kevin Cho Wing-nin, 46, and Au Kim-fung, 42, are accused of inducing Cheung, between November 3 and December 4, 2009, to give false evidence in a trial. They are charged with perverting the course of justice and misconduct.

The court heard that Cheung sought legal advice from Virginia Szeto in March and August 2009.

The ICAC officers began coaching him in November 2009.

Cheung earlier presented to the court six hours of audio tapes in which he secretly recorded his meetings with three ICAC officers, who allegedly coached him on answers he should give and help him rehearse for his court appearance.

The first taping was on November 23 and the second on December 3. Cheung refused to testify in court on December 7.

Cheung told the court yesterday he made the secret records after taking legal advice. He had no intention other than to keep a record of what was said at the meetings. 'I never thought about [how I would make use of the recordings],' he said.

Tse accused Cheung of lying, saying that he intended to use the records as a 'bargaining chip' in future dealings with the ICAC.

'As the trial [on December 7] was approaching, you decided you wanted a way out of the dilemma,' he said.

'Your recording was a premeditated plan. Should you be prosecuted, you would disclose these secret recordings ... and the case against you might be dropped.'

Cheung denied the accusations, saying he acted solely on legal advice.

Asked what prompted him not to testify at the 2009 trial despite being granted immunity, Cheung refused to answer, saying the question involved his legal advice.

The hearing continues.