• Mon
  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:03pm
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 3:22am

Her Majesty's Service lives on in Hong Kong

BIO

Howard Winn has been with the South China Morning Post for two and half years after previous stints as business editor and deputy editor of The Standard, and business editor of Asia Times. His writing has also been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. He writes the Lai See column which focuses on the lighter side of business.
 

Those who choose to protest against government policies by waving the colonial flag have all received a serious ticking off from our Chief Executive C.Y. Leung and others, including the former director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, went so far as to observe that people who felt so inclined should renounce their Chinese nationality. But now we hear of a similar outrage, though interestingly this appears to have been perpetuated by the Hong Kong government. A letter has fallen into our hands from David Chiu, the principal executive officer (administration) in the Chief Secretary's Office, in which he urges greater vigilance on the part of the staff. "It has been brought to our attention that a member of the public recently received a government letter in an envelope bearing the wording 'ON HER MAJESTY'S SERVICE'. While we believe it is only a single incident, we would like to take the opportunity to remind all bureaux/departments to make every effort to avoid any recurrence of similar oversight. Please bring to the attention of your staff that items with wording, signs and symbols which carry connotations of British sovereignty should have been made obsolete and not be put in official use." Absolutely, old boy.
 

Anthony Wu gets a hearing

The Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants finally held its first hearing into complaints about the professional conduct of Hospital Authority chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk, Ernst & Young, of which Wu was chairman until December 2005, and Catherine Yen Ka-shun, another senior figure at the accounting firm. Yesterday's proceedings were a Directions Hearing, dealing with preliminary matters. But they were not without interest. This is one of HKICPA's highest profile ever cases with big legal teams and numerous boxes of documents. Wu's solicitors were Herbert Smith Freehills together with counsel Mark Strachan, while Linklaters and counsel Roger Beresford were acting for Ernst & Young and Yen. The HKICPA was represented by Reed Smith Richards Butler and Senior Counsel Peter Duncan.

The complaint relates to the collapse of New China Hong Kong Group (NCHK), which was founded in 1993 by a consortium of investors from Hong Kong, the mainland (including the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office) and Singapore. The group entered voluntary liquidation in 1999 amid claims of HK$100 million. Wu was financial adviser to NCHK. At the same time, he was managing partner of Ernst & Young's China business in 1996, before becoming deputy chairman of the firm in 1998 and chairman in 2000. During this period, Ernst & Young was auditor to NCHK. Various lawsuits followed the company's collapse, one of which was against Ernst & Young and Wu, which was settled out of court.

The legal teams for Wu and the other respondents argued that the disciplinary committee did not have jurisdiction to hear the case because, they argued, the investigation committee that prepared the report was not properly constituted. Strachan also argued that the Investigating Committee had exceeded its remit in investigating the case for professional misconduct for Wu. It was like the police investigating a traffic accident and then coming across a murder, Strachan argued, adding they required different investigations. However, these arguments cut little ice with the chairman of the Disciplinary Committee, Kumar Ramanathan, and his fellow committee members. All the objections were rejected, clearing the way for the main hearing in May.

This hopefully will give the lawyers time to learn to speak into the microphones so everyone can hear the proceedings. It is profoundly irritating for observers to see the principal players contentedly chatting among themselves.
 

Rolex is not No 1

We hope the people from Rolex have had time to read Bloomberg's rags to riches piece on Zong Qinghou, the chairman of Hangzhou Wahaha Group. He is No30 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, but unlike others in this league does not flaunt his wealth. "I don't need expensive clothing," he says. His one concession is his US$48,000 Vacheron Constantin watch, which he bought to replace an old Rolex. "Other people say Rolex is for the newly rich," he says, smiling.
 

Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to howard.winn@scmp.com

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