TVB'S Chan cleared of graft charges
TVB general manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan was yesterday acquitted on all corruption and fraud charges after the judge criticised his employer for its poor internal management.
Chan, his former assistant Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun and TVB marketing chief Wilson Chan Wing-shuen were found not guilty of all five charges against them in the District Court yesterday. The Department of Justice has yet to decide whether it will launch an appeal.
Prosecutors had accused Stephen Chan of receiving HK$112,000 behind his employer's back to perform in a live talk show. Chan and Tseng also allegedly concealed sponsorship arrangements in another book signing event and cheated five TVB artists - who supported Chan free of charge at a show held in a shopping mall - of their commissions. Wilson Chan and Tseng were also accused of conspiring to defraud TVB of HK$550,000.
Acting Chief District Judge Poon Siu-tung criticised TVB for allowing its artists, who normally get an appearance fee, to join ones attended by its senior executives for free.
'TVB is a listed company. I can hardly understand why such arrangements can be made,' Poon said.
A listed company should not be a 'clubhouse of major shareholders,' he continued. TVB did not lay down any rules governing support-the-boss activities and made judgments solely based on who the boss was, the judge said.
Cheers erupted in the courtroom after all charges were found to be unsubstantiated. A red-eyed, emotional Tseng hugged his friends while the tense faces of the two Chans relaxed into smiles.
Facing a throng of reporters outside the court, the trio repeatedly thanked their family and friends.
Stephen Chan said: 'I thank God for giving me such a good legal team and for his support. I thank my family for their support and love. I am especially thankful for [friend] Wong Hei, Pastor Lam Yee-lok, [TVB managing director] Ms Fong Yat-wah and [executive deputy chairman] Mr Leung Nai-pang.'
The legal fees of Stephen Chan and Tseng will be paid for out of public funds. Wilson Chan was required to pay his own costs as the evidence he gave to the ICAC raised justifiable suspicion.
TVB stated that it respected the court's verdict and that its operations remained unaffected.
An ICAC spokesman said it would study the judgment in detail, while a Department of Justice spokesman said reasons for the verdict would be studied to determine what action, if any, would be taken in an appeal.
Professor Anthony Fung Ying-him, director of Chinese University's School of Journalism and Communication, said it was common for artists of entertainment and music companies to attend events for free.
'It is an attempt to build up relationship with clients ... artists may show up at a shop's opening party without getting paid. But clients may hire them as spokesmen for their products later,' he suggested.