Graft-busters deny perverting course of justice
The star witness in a HK$100 million fraud trial told a court yesterday how three anti-corruption agents allegedly coached him to give false evidence in a series of meetings.
Cheung Ching-ho said he wanted immunity from prosecution but ended up turning investigator and exposing the officers.
The three suspended Independent Commission Against Corruption agents - chief investigator Kevin Cho Wing-nin, 47, senior investigator Ben Chan Kai-hung, 39, and assistant investigator John Au Kim-fung, 42 - were in the dock, where they denied perverting the course of justice and misconduct in public office.
The District Court heard that between them the three held a total of six meetings with Cheung between November 3 and December 4, 2009. They were alleged to have strongly advised Cheung against getting a lawyer and taught him how to respond to questions in court.
Cheung hid a recording device in his clothes to secretly tape two of the meetings and wrote notes on most of the meetings afterwards - as advised by his lawyer. '[I] did not feel comfortable,' Cheung told the court.
When asked why he continued to be coached by the officers, he said: 'I needed to obtain immunity from prosecution, so I had to co-operate with them.' He said he was also worried about making the officers angry if he refused to attend the meetings.
Cheung, 39, was among five people arrested by graft-busters in May 2008 for manipulating the derivatives market and laundering more than HK$100 million. He had originally been due to give evidence under immunity from prosecution against his co-accused, the mastermind behind the fraud, Raymond Ng Chun-to.
Chan allegedly told Cheung to say that money withdrawn from his relatives' bank accounts was transferred to Ng, when in fact the cash was for his own use. Chan also told him to try to persuade Ng's other co-accused to become prosecution witnesses and pretend it was his own idea.
Chan told Cheung that if anyone in court asked about their meetings, he was to say they were 'only shooting the breeze'. If the truth behind the meetings was uncovered, Chan reportedly said, then it would be seen as perverting the course of justice.
Cho allegedly told Cheung to claim that he was a heavy gambler and had lost most of the money he earned from the scam.
The agents also disclosed statements made by other witnesses and told Cheung to keep his answers short to try to avoid follow-up questions by defence counsels. However, Cheung refused to give evidence in court on December 7, 2009, and his lawyers came forward with the allegations against the agents.
Cheung was later charged with conspiracy to defraud and sentenced to 25 months in jail last June.
Ng, the 'King of Warrants', was jailed for four years in April 2010 on four counts of conspiracy to defraud.
The case continues today before Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong.