Suspended Pearl Oriental Oil in boardroom shake-up

Deputy chairman at Pearl Oriental under investigation by ICAC quits for health reasons as CEO steps down and financial chief goes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 7:47am

The suspended energy firm Pearl Oriental Oil saw two of its directors resign and its chairman step down as chief executive yesterday.

The company's deputy chairman and executive director, Lew Mon-hung, a former ally of Hong Kong's chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, who was arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) twice in the past two months, has resigned all roles in the company because of his "health conditions".

Lew denied that his resignation had any link to the ICAC's investigation against him. "It has nothing to do with the ICAC probe … True gold fears no fire," Lew said, expressing his confidence that his integrity could stand any test.

He said: "My resignation is for health reasons. I suffered from arrhythmia earlier and stayed in Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital [from February 9 to 12]. Last week, I was also diagnosed with sleep apnea syndrome. I want to take a rest for recovery first," Lew said.

The company's chairman, Wong Kwan, also resigned as chief executive but remains chairman, executive director and authorised representative. Wong said his resignation as chief executive was down to "good corporate governance practice". He will be replaced by an accountant, Jack Law Wing-tak.

Wong said: "The stock exchange has always encouraged listed companies to have different individuals to take the roles as chairman and chief executive. By passing on the chief executive role to an accounting professional we will enhance the governance of the company."

Cheung Kwok-yu has resigned as executive director, financial controller, and company secretary because of "other business engagements which require more of his time and attention". Tong Wong Hiu-tung replaces him as financial controller while Yeung Man-chit replaces him as company secretary.

Last month the company issued a statement confirming that Lew was arrested by the ICAC on February 20 on suspicion of criminal intimidation and perverting the course of justice. He was released on bail.

Lew was earlier arrested by the ICAC on January 8, the day the company suspended trading. The arrest in February was believed to be in relation to a letter Lew purportedly wrote to C.Y. Leung, asking him to intervene in the ICAC's investigation into Pearl Oriental Oil, or he would set off "political bombs".

Pearl Oriental Oil said in its statement in February that the investigation by the ICAC into Lew "has nothing to do with the company".

In late January, Lew made explosive claims about Leung in an interview with the magazine iSun Affairs, accusing Leung of lying about how he had dealt with illegal structures at his home on The Peak. He also said Leung had gone back on his word to appoint Lew to the Executive Council.