Lai See

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2011, 12:00am


Armed police the biggest threat to city's finest

Several months ago, the press had a field day with images from a policewoman's blog showing what were described as 'racy' photographs of policewomen larking around in their underwear and one in which they were pointing guns at each other.

This set us wondering why Hong Kong's police officers are still armed.

Hong Kong Police Force was set up as a paramilitary force, and has always been armed. Tradition seems to be the main reason for routinely arming officers. But, given the low level of violent crime in the city, this is surely no longer necessary.

Each of the five police regional divisions has an 'emergency unit' comprising highly trained officers who can respond to serious crime situations such as armed bank robberies.

According to police statistics, officers rarely draw their firearms, let alone fire them, in the course of duty.

Between 2007 and June this year, police drew arms on 16 occasions - once in 2007, six times in 2008, three in 2009, four last year and twice so far this year. Shots were fired on six occasions.

One disturbing statistic is that, over the same period, three officers used their firearms to commit suicide. In addition, an auxiliary police officer shot himself last week in what is thought to have been a suicide.

On the face of it, the biggest risk of the police carrying firearms would appear to be to the police themselves.

Wedding concert

The wedding of Li & Fung chief executive Bruce Rockowitz and Coco Lee looks set to be the social event of the year.

People close to the organisers say it's going to be more like a rock concert than your conventional white wedding affair. The event is scheduled for late next month and the Hong Kong Stadium has been hired for the event.

Not that 40,000 people will be turning up, but we are assured there'll be some big names. Rihanna played at the party the couple threw to celebrate their engagement last year. Beyonce is one star who is being sought, among others.

Pop stars can be elusive and expensive, but Rockowitz should have some pull with Beyonce since LF USA, a subsidiary of Li & Fung, acquired Beyond Productions, the apparel and accessories company led by Beyonc? and Tina Knowles, earlier this year.

If she doesn't show up, maybe Coco herself, who is no slouch at singing, can warble a few numbers.

Rogue description

Rolling Stone journalist Mat Taibbi, who famously described Goldman Sachs as 'a great vampire squid', is scornful of the term 'rogue trader'.

In a recent piece, he writes, '... making insanely irresponsible decisions with other people's money is exactly the job description of a lot of people on Wall Street.'

The only thing that differentiates a 'rogue' trader like Barings villain Nick Leeson from a Lloyd Blankfein, Dick Fuld, John Thain or someone like AIG's Joe Cassano is that those other guys are more senior and their lunatic, catastrophic decisions were authorised.

In the financial press, he says, 'You're called a 'rogue trader' if you're some over-perspired 28-year-old newbie who bypasses internal audits and quality control to make a disastrous trade that could sink the company. But if you're a well-groomed 60-year-old [chief executive] who uses his authority to ignore quality control and internal audits in order to make disastrous trades that could sink the company, you get a bailout, a bonus and heroic treatment in an Andrew Ross Sorkin book.'

Taibbi's point is that we should be talking about rogue firms, not rogue traders.

Yam in UBS probe team

We see that Joseph Yam Chi-kwong, the former head of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and a director of UBS since April, gets to star in the 'rogue trader' saga.

Yam is a member of the three-man committee set by the UBS board to conduct an independent investigation into the unauthorised trading activities and their relation to the control environment.

Yam must be wondering if this is quite what he had in mind when he signed up for UBS. He, along with the rest of us, was led to believe that this sort of outrageous risk-taking was a thing of the past and that, as the Wall Street Journal tells us, 'under chief executive Oswald Grubel, the bank claimed to have put in place new risk management practices, pulled back from proprietary trading and focused on a low-risk client-driven model'.

That model doesn't seem to have taken off yet. We look forward to the report.