TVB's Chan faces retrial threat on some counts
The Department of Justice will appeal against last week's acquittal of TVB general manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan and his former assistant Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun on graft charges, a department spokeswoman said yesterday.
The move means the pair could face a possible retrial on three of the five counts they were cleared of by District Court on Friday. 'If the appeal is allowed, the Court of Appeal has power to reverse the verdict or order and direct that the defendants be retried or find them guilty under the District Court Ordinance,' the department spokeswoman said.
The three charges in question include allegations Chan received HK$112,000 behind his employer's back to perform in a live talk show. They also concern accusations that Chan and Tseng concealed sponsorship arrangements in another book-signing event and cheated five TVB artistes of their commissions.
Lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a senior counsel, said a successful appeal would require the Court of Appeal to find the lower-court judge had misunderstood a legal point.
'If the court found that there was enough fact to hand down another verdict, it could do it immediately,' Tong said. 'If not, it could order a retrial.'
The main issue of law hinges on Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, under which the three charges were levelled against Chan and Tseng.
The ordinance states that any agent or employee who solicits or accepts any advantage for having done anything in relation to his employer's affairs or business is open to prosecution for corruption.
Acting Chief District Judge Poon Siu-tung ruled that Chan was acting as a celebrity or an artiste, not as a TVB general manager, when he was performing at those public functions and on-stage performance did not fall within the scope of a general manager's role.
The Department of Justice spokeswoman said the point in question was whether Chan's appearance in the talk show was 'in relation to his principle's affairs or business'.
'We are stating a case on the point of law that the judge misstated the law as to this element of the offence and misapplied it to the facts of the case,' she said. 'We are seeking to argue that the error would result in overturning the acquittal.'
Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, a solicitor, said it was arguable whether Chan, who appeared in a live talk show broadcast by TVB, on his personal capacity, was related to the station's business.
'Everybody has their private time and holiday,' To said. 'Only civil servants could not receive any advantage even when they were off-duty.'
The Department of Justice will also seek to overturn a ruling which made the public pay Chan's and Tseng's legal fees. A TVB spokesman declined to comment.