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CommentInsight & Opinion

Donald Tsang deserves to know his fate in ICAC's graft probe

Grenville Cross says it is unacceptable that, 15 months after the ICAC began investigating Donald Tsang's alleged improprieties, the former chief executive's fate still isn't known

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 May, 2013, 5:20am

Justice delayed is justice denied," says a legal maxim. If a criminal case is delayed, a trial may be stayed - if the delay has caused prejudice; while a convicted defendant may receive a reduced sentence because of the trauma he or she has faced. Suspects, therefore, must know their fate within a reasonable time, and not be left in suspense.

Although the former chief executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, was referred to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on February 25 last year, for allegedly improper associations with tycoons and extravagant living, 15 months later the case is still outstanding - and Tsang is entitled to be put out of his misery.

After all, experienced investigators are handling the case and the evidence seems relatively straightforward, which makes the delay all the more surprising. There could of course be more to the allegations than has been reported, but Tsang and the public need to know what is happening. It is, however, no ordinary case, as events have shown.

Firstly, once the investigation started, then secretary for justice Wong Yan-lung, as chief prosecutor, declined to announce his withdrawal from the case, notwithstanding that he was Tsang's legal adviser. His input into the case, until he left office four months later, may never be known. What is known is that his successor, Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung, did not follow his example and, once allegations of impropriety against the current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, were lodged with the ICAC in January, he promptly handed responsibility to the director of public prosecutions who had "no connection with the persons involved in the cases".

Secondly, last November, a spokesman for the Prosecutions Division, with dreadful timing, announced that there was no pressing need for Hong Kong to have an independent DPP as the existing system was working well. Although this will have played well with ministers, it jarred with those who felt the system should be depoliticised, particularly as Tsang and other senior officials were all facing possible prosecution. In 2011, at least five government ministers had escaped prosecution, for undisclosed reasons, for having allegedly illegal structures on their properties, and this lamentable precedent has done little to inspire public confidence in the proper disposal of Tsang's case.

Thirdly, although the ICAC's former director of operations, Daniel Li Ming-chak - who was due to retire in April 2012 - was retained until July 31 last year to enable him to complete the Tsang investigation, the case is still outstanding. If Li completed his task before he retired, why has there been a deafening silence since? Independent legal advice has to be obtained, but this cannot begin to explain a delay of this magnitude. The impression of deliberate foot-dragging, or worse, is inescapable.

Fourthly, although Tsang himself indicated in March that the case was still alive, when he said it would be inappropriate of him to join the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference until matters were settled, he revealed nothing of its actual progress, presumably because he did not know.

Fifthly, after the news broke recently of the alleged misuse of public money by the ICAC's former commissioner, Timothy Tong Hin-ming, some people noted that Tong was a Tsang appointee. Fears were also expressed that the scandal could weaken the ICAC at a time of crisis, with numerous high-profile cases on the boil. Although Tong had properly recused himself from the Tsang investigation, the crisis now engulfing him has inevitably raised questions about the prevailing culture at the top of the ICAC.

After all, the allegations concerning Tong and Tsang are not dissimilar, involving extravagance and a disregard of proprieties, and the inordinate delay in Tsang's case may fuel suspicions that matters are not being appropriately pursued. Something must be done therefore to reassure the public, and soon.

The ICAC commissioner, Simon Peh Yun-lu, reports to the chief executive and Leung must ascertain if Peh is on top of his game. A progress report should be sought and reasons given for the delay. If the cause of the delay lies not with the ICAC but with the department of justice, Leung must ask the justice secretary to expedite the legal advice. For their part, Peh and Yuen should be prepared to bang heads together in their own departments, if that will get things moving. If the chairman of the ICAC's operations review committee, Michael Sze Cho-cheung, can also galvanise things internally, so much the better.

While a sensitive or complicated case must not be rushed or prejudiced, there has been ample time for a full investigation and legal advice. If a decision has been taken on Tsang's case, as seems likely, there can be no basis for withholding it, even if it is controversial.

If Tsang is to be prosecuted, he should be charged, and taken to court. If not, he should be informed, and the reasons made public. Either way, Tsang must be told his fate, as basic justice requires.

Grenville Cross SC, an honorary professor of law at the university of Hong Kong, is the vice-chairman of the senate of the International Association of Prosecutors. The views expressed are those of the author

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captam
@ "Is this the same Grenville Cross, the author of today's article ?
www.doj.gov.hk/eng/archive/pdf/pr151203e.pdf
DPP Decides not to Prosecute Antony Leung"
Good one 'dynamco' . Lawyers rarely, if ever, understand the meaning of the words "honesty' and 'consistency'. Their 'legal opinions' very much depend who they are working for at the time!
Western democracy's so-called "Rule of Law" is a myth. The law is manipulated by the politicians in control. Witness how Britain's "independent" judiciary and law officers routinely get elevated to the House of Lords and then suddenly see the government's position in a different light.
the sun also rises
'rule of law' is never a myth even in Hong Kong which inherits the common laws from the former British coloial government.Maybe you think that the 'rule by law' as practised on Mainland China is a better legal system ? Of course,in the eyes of the rulers,it definitely is ! But how about the rights of the people they govern ? I wonder.
Byebye
Quote Mr Glenville Cross "If Tsang is to be prosecuted, he should be charged, and taken to court. If not, he should be informed, and the reasons made public. Either way, Tsang must be told his fate, as basic justice requires." ~~ as a Hong Konger paying Hong Kong tax and am always proud of growing up with the ICAC, I am waiitng for such news. Do we have to guess or doubt? No power is above the Law and Order of Hong Kong, and Justine needs to be maintained and sustained.
the sun also rises
yeah,the writer has rightly pointed out that the case of Donald Tsang should be tackled and the results made known to the public and Tsang himself as soon as possible since the case investigated by the ICAC has been prolonged to sixteen months already. Tsang must be told his fate--charged and taken to court or..It is basic justice indeed ! 'Justice delayed is definitely denied' !
dynamco
Is this the same Grenville Cross, the author of today's article ?
www.doj.gov.hk/eng/archive/pdf/pr151203e.pdf
DPP Decides not to Prosecute Antony Leung
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mr Grenville Cross, SC, has
decided not to prosecute former Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung, for his
actions in respect of a car purchased shortly before an increase in First Registration
Tax in the 2003 Budget.
Circulation fraud en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Standard
August 1996, the ICAC in HKG Kong found out that 14,000 copies of the paper had been discarded in Wan Chai pier and therefore started an investigation. The ICAC discovered that from 1994 to 1997, the circulation figures of the Hong Kong Sunday Standard and the Hong Kong Standard had been routinely and substantially exaggerated, in order to attract advertisers and to raise the revenue of the newspapers. Circulation figures had always been somewhat obscure, due to the Sing Tao group's longstanding agreements with Hotels and clubs where the newspaper was distributed free- the ICAC arrested three staff members of the Hong Kong Standard and charged Aw Sian as co-conspirator. This case was examined and deliberated from 23 Nov 1998 to 20 Jan 1999. the three staff members were found guilty and sentenced to 4 - 6 months in jail. Aw Sian was not prosecuted. Elsie Leung justified her decision not to prosecute Aw Sian on the basis of insufficient evidence and public interest.
Kinda says it all ?
dynamco
Misconduct in Public Office common law offence
www.onc.hk/pub/oncfile/publication/criminal/1203_EN_Is_Donald_Tsang_Guilty_of_the_Offence_of_Misconduct_in_Public_Office.pdf
www.scmp.com/business/article/1083438/misconduct-public-office-covers-all-public-officials
phuketwan.com/tourism/phuket-holiday-helicopter-adds-whiff-scandal-hong-kongs-chief-15545/
although Tsang said he paid for the helicopter flight during a holiday on Phuket earlier this month, he did not reveal the cost
Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Sector
Thomas Chan Director of Corruption Prevention (ICAC), HKG
www.oecd.org/site/adboecdanti-corruptioninitiative/regionalseminars/35592738.pdf
From the outset, we should recognise that conflict of interest is largely a “perception” issue. That is, it is not a matter of whether you think you have done the right thing. What matters is whether the public thinks you have done the right thing. When determining whether a conflict of interest has arisen, one test we can practically apply is whether you are prepared to discuss the situation openly – the so-called “sunshine test”. In the last analysis, the onus is on you to prove that you have acted properly.
What Tong said vs what Tong did
www.icac.org.hk/en/services_and_resources/sa/bpsis/index.html
www.chinadaily.com.cn/hkedition/2012-02/23/content_14671703.htm
so he took a ride on a tobacco tycoon's boat (2 weeks after there was no tobacco tax increase in the budget) etc etc
dynamco
www.propertyguru.com.sg/property-management-news/2012/2/32417/donald-tsang-s-shenzhen-penthouse-ignites-controve
Former Hong Kong Chief Executive, Donald Tsang (pictured), has become subject of media interest as his property - a planned retirement home is being scrutinised.
The penthouse apartment was reportedly surveyed by undercover reporters.
Upon seeing the property located in Shenzhen, the reporters doubted how Tsang could afford its high rental, considering the modest monthly stipend he will receive after retirement.
In addition, a Shenzhen housing agent claimed that Tsang allegedly received the apartment for free, in opposition to Tsang’s claims that he would rent the property
rpasea
I think it is pretty clear that Beijing would not want Donald prosecuted.
maecheung
It's more like SHK, CK, and other large property developers do ot want Donald prosecuted.

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