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  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 3:19am
Lai See
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 3:53am

What about the ICAC's probe into Donald Tsang?

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.
 

It is been more than six months since former chief executive Donald Tsang came to the attention of the ICAC for allegations that he had acted improperly as a result of his dealings with tycoon buddies, such as accepting rides in their private jets and yachts and agreeing to rent a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen at a bargain rate.

The former Deputy Commissioner of Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Daniel Li Ming-chak, twice had his retirement extended to enable him to look into Tsang's case. He has now retired, presumably after he finished "looking" into Tsang's situation. Surely by now we should know whether there is a case to be made against him or not.

Most people who follow these matters seem to think that in the event he did accept inappropriate favours, the ordinance does not cover activities of the chief executive. So the reluctance in announcing a decision on Tsang may be more to do with the possibility that Tsang has done no wrong in the eyes of the law. This is unlikely to trigger street protests but it probably won't go down well among certain elements within the Legislative Council.

Memories of the Lonely Planet

Those of a certain age were treated to a nostalgia trip by Tony Wheeler, the founder of Lonely Planet Publications. Speaking at the Royal Geographical Society's annual dinner recently, he gave an engaging talk illustrated with slides from exotic locations alongside those evocative '70s fashions about the start of Lonely Planet.

The story starts with him and his wife Maureen buying a minivan for £65 and driving it to Kabul via Iran and Pakistan, and then selling it for £70. They eventually ended in Sydney with 27 US cents in their pocket. This journey along Asia's "hippie trail" in the 1970s resulted in the first Lonely Planet guide, Across Asia on the Cheap. The book sold well and they did another trip taking in Southeast Asia and wrote a second guide: South-East Asia on a Shoestring, which was written in the Palace Hotel in Singapore. In those days it was not unusual to find signs in government buildings in Singapore like "Males with long hair will be served last". In 1973 Lonely Planet described Bali as already "over".

The Wheelers sold Lonely Planet in two tranches between 2007 and 2011 to the BBC for a reported £100 million. Lonely Planet now publishes some 500 titles and has sold about 80 million guidebooks. "All you've got to do is decide where to go and the hardest part is over," says Wheeler in the introduction to his first travel guide. "So go." And many people did with a copy of Lonely Planet in their backpack.

A load of bull

It didn't seem so long ago when the continued existence of the euro was in serious doubt. There was some anxiety among the group of Eurocrats that put together a video for the 10th anniversary of the issuance of euro notes that appeared on YouTube some months before the anniversary on January 2012.

Now emboldened by its survival the Eurocrats have come up with a second series of notes, which bears the image of Europa as a watermark. In Greek mythology Europa was a Phoenician princess whom Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder, took a shine to. He turned himself into a friendly white bull to entice her and when she hops on his back he plunges into the sea and takes her to Crete whereupon he reveals his true identity and makes her his queen. It is for this reason that those who are sceptical of the long-term viability of the euro have cruelly referred to this new series of euro notes as a "load of bull".

Casinos sort of ban smoking

The coming ban on smoking in casinos is likely to lead to a reduction in gaming revenue, according to Nomura analyst Harry Curtis in a note quoted by Bloomberg.

The ban, which comes into effect on January 1, means casinos can designate at least up to half of their gaming floors as no smoking. Smoking was banned in most public places in Macau at the beginning of 2012 but casinos were exempted for a year, as it was felt a ban would be bad for business based on the 20 per cent decline in revenues at US casinos when a total ban on smoking was imposed. We take a view that no smoking areas are like having a non-urinating section in a swimming pool.

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

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