Penthouse owner has learned his lesson

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 March, 2012, 12:00am
 

The tycoon owner of the three-storey penthouse that Donald Tsang Yam-kuen intended to move into on his retirement says he will keep his distance from the chief executive - and those hoping to succeed him.

Bill Wong Cho-bau, owner of the East Pacific Garden, said he learned Tsang had decided to abandon the lease of the 6,500 sq ft Shenzhen flat only when the chief executive appeared in Legco on Thursday.

'I am just a businessman and have nothing to do with politics. I just wanted to boost publicity for my property, but it had the reverse effect,' said Wong, who is in Beijing to attend the annual session of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

'From now on I will avoid contact with the chief executive, and those candidates who will possibly become the next chief executive.'

Wong, who nominated Henry Tang Ying-yen for the post, became embroiled in the conflict-of-interest row surrounding Tsang after the media exposed the chief executive's lease terms: 80,000 yuan (HK$98,400) a month for a 6,500 sq ft penthouse with luxury d?cor thrown in.

Wong's major stake in the Digital Broadcasting Corporation fuelled further allegations of collusion, as Tsang used his discretionary power in the Executive Council to allow former education minister Arthur Li Kwok-cheung to chair the DBC.

Li would otherwise be disqualified under the Telecommunications Ordinance, as his brother David Li Kwok-po is a director of another media corporation, PCCW.

Wong said he was 'frustrated by the development' and would offer any assistance necessary to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which is investigating Tsang over other alleged favours offered by his tycoon friends, including trips in yachts and private jets.

'The lease will be invalidated but I will have to consult my lawyer to check how much [Tsang has to pay],' said Wong. 'I will co-operate with the ICAC whenever needed.'

He said he had hoped Tsang would bring publicity for his development, but now regretted renting the house to a 'big politician' .

Wong added: 'This [controversy] has also affected my family. I thought I had got a person who would create publicity for my property, as this is better than buying advertisements.

'But the deal has achieved the worst possible outcome. I thought I was dealing with the chief executive only, but not a big politician.'

He added: 'I will lease this penthouse to someone I do not know next time - maybe an engineer or an investment banker.'

Asked if he would continue his support for Tang - the former chief secretary who is seen as a close ally of the business sector - Wong, a member of the 1,200-strong Election Committee, said: 'Tang's illegal-structures scandal has affected my perception of him. Although I nominated him, I will assess his policy platforms again and have a second thought before voting for him on March 25.'

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