Lai See

Misconduct in public office covers all public officials

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 November, 2012, 2:47am


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Following our reflections on why it was taking so long for the ICAC to announce a decision on whether it intends to prosecute former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen we came across a discussion of the case in an ONC Lawyers newsletter. It will be recalled that the ICAC took an interest in Tsang following newspaper reports that he had accepted various favours from tycoons that included trips in private jets and yachts, and renting a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen at bargain basement rate.

In June, the outgoing secretary for the civil service, Denise Yue Chung-yee, was reported as saying that although Tsang's acceptance of gifts from tycoons was "misconduct", he had not broken any rules since none applied to him. However, the ONC Lawyers newsletter discusses the issue of "misconduct in public office" which is a common law offence.

It concludes that "... the favours provided by the tycoons, as reported by the media, if proven to be true, went well beyond normal hospitality and were likely to be accepted by Tsang in relation to his office and that they were supplied as some form of 'sweetener' to Tsang". The newsletter continues: "This may well be the appropriate circumstances where the acceptance of more than a 'general sweetener' by Tsang amounts to misconduct in public office." This case has been pending for more than six months.


A club but no driver

A long-standing member of the Hong Kong Golf Club of some 35 years writes to advise us of his recent experience with the club in trying to pick up tickets that he'd been allotted for the UBS Hong Kong Open Golf Tournament at Fanling which started yesterday. He went to the Deep Water Bay clubhouse to collect his tickets only to be told by one of the ladies at the reception desk that there were no more tickets available that day, and that he should return the next day.

He responded that this would be difficult. To which, without batting an eyelid, the lady suggested helpfully that his driver could come and collect them. However, on being told that our friend neither had a driver nor a car, she responded with a look of total bemusement, possibly wondering how such a person could be a member. Our friend observes that: "It's good to see that standards are not slipping at the Hong Kong Golf Club."


Citi to list in Asia?

Citi has been entertaining global investors in Hong Kong at its Global Financial Conference 2012 with accounts of its prowess in Asia.

This is considerable when compared to the impression some investors might get from the bank's US operations; its "bad bank" Citi Holdings, and the seemingly endless litany of fines it has had to pay. In Asia things are different with the region chipping in some one-third of the group's profits, amounting to US$4 billion, compared with US$1 billion a decade ago. One tantalising question is whether Citi will list in the region given its growth and ambitions.

However, it appears unlikely that Citi at this stage will want to share its profits. "The profits in Asia are too good to IPO off to someone else," was how the situation was described to us. Citi has undergone something of a renaissance, at least in perception, since the departure of previous CEO Vikram Pandit. This has prompted even the likes of Mike Mayo, CLSA's US banking research head and one of the bank's fiercest critics, to change his view of the bank and the prospects for its share price.


On fear of failure

We've received an interesting missive from Barclay's Wealth Insights headlined "Over three quarters of Hong Kong's wealthy believe that viewing failure positively is essential for an economy to grow". It goes on to say that 79 per cent of Hong Kong's high-net-worth individuals believe this compared with the global average of 74 per cent.

We find it rather odd that anyone should feel comfortable about "failing" let alone viewing it "positively". We can understand that people might see value in learning from mistakes, or trying to be positive having made the mistake. But it would be unusual especially in Hong Kong to hear a prospective entrepreneur say "Hey guys watch me blow five million dollars on this project", "Oh and by the way this will be good for Hong Kong."


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