Attempt to extend graft law 'hindered'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 April, 2012, 12:00am


Former chief graft-buster Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun said yesterday she was 'hindered' in her attempt to extend the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance to include senior officials.

The ex-commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption made the claim in a Commercial Radio interview.

She was recalling her tenure from October 2006 to June 2007 under the administration of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and the then chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, who are both now facing corruption probes.

'When I wanted to extend the coverage of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance I faced hindrance. It upset me a lot,' Law said in the interview, without giving further details or revealing the source of the hindrance.

Hui was arrested last week over alleged collusion with brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, joint chairmen of the Sun Hung Kai Properties empire. Tsang is also being investigated by the ICAC for potential conflicts of interest by accepting favours from tycoon friends.

The ICAC commissioner, who is appointed by the chief executive, is directly accountable to the city's leader. But a former ICAC investigator, who declined to be named, said generally it was the Corruption Prevention Department of the commission that was responsible for legal amendments. He said the department would prepare an amendment proposal for the director of administration, who would seek advice from the Department of Justice.

If both parties agreed, the administrative wing would draft a bill to the Legislative Council for readings.

The ex-ICAC investigator recalled that about six years ago, the commission had discussed codifying misconduct in public office from the common law into the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. But he said it was rejected by the administrative wing.

Pan-democratic lawmakers questioned why Law had revealed her difficulties only after the administration had been plagued by scandals.

Civic Party lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee said the anti-bribery laws did not cover the chief executive despite years of advocacy. The issue had even been discussed in an amendment bill of the ordinance.

She was referring to sections 3 and 8 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, which govern soliciting or accepting an advantage and the bribery of public servants, but which did not cover the chief executive even after an amendment in 2008.

'The government refused to amend section 3, saying the chief executive could not have approved his own acceptance of advantages,' said Ng, a barrister. As for section 8, the government said stepping up the restriction could deter some 'passionate citizens from sending gifts as gratitude to the chief executive'.'

Democratic Party vice-chairman Sin Chung-kai, who in 2006 was a member of Advisory Committee on Corruption that oversees the ICAC's direction and policy matters, said he could not recall Law pushing for an extension of the ordinance.

He said Law was either trying to 'distance herself from Tsang', or the hindrance she faced was internal within the ICAC.

Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the government's resolve to apply anti-graft laws to the highest levels of the administration was clear.