Appeal starts against ex-TVB chief Stephen Chan's acquittal for bribery

ICAC tells appeal judges that District Court erred in acquitting Stephen Chan on bribery charges linked to talk-show appearance

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 November, 2012, 3:46am


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The ICAC yesterday began its appeal against the acquittal of ex-TVB general manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan and his then assistant on corruption charges.

The government's lawyers called on the Court of Appeal to reverse the ruling, claiming that the District Court had made mistakes in applying the bribery law at the initial trial.

If the acquittal is overturned, the court could find Chan guilty or send the case back to the District Court, either for retrial or for the ruling to be reconsidered.

In September last year Chan went on trial for receiving HK$112,000 behind his employer's back from Olympian City in 2010 to perform in the live talk show Be My Guest, which was held at the mall.

While he had engaged in the production of more than 150 episodes of Be My Guest, free of charge for the station, on this occasion Chan was paid through a company run by his co-accused, Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun. Acting Chief District Judge Poon Siu-tung acquitted Chan of three charges under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, ruling that Chan had played host as a celebrity or an artiste, not as a TVB general manager.

But Eric Kwok Tung-ming SC, for the ICAC, said Chan should not have been acquitted as the work was not "genuine moonlighting" - that is, unrelated to TVB's business. Kwok said Chan's hosting of a talk show on the channel he managed would influence the station's programming decisions.

Kwok also argued Chan could not rely on the defence of reasonable excuse - that Chan, in the opinion of a reasonable man, should not be convicted.

"He had not even asked for permission," he said. "How would that be reasonable?"

Joseph Tse Wah-yuen SC, for Chan, said the trial judge had not made a mistake. He said Chan would rely on the defence of reasonable excuse as his client believed he would have been given permission had he made the application and so had no obligation to seek such permission.

While Tse agreed that Chan's work did impact on TVB's business, the lawyer stressed that did not mean Chan was guilty.

He said unless it was proven that at the time of accepting the money Chan knew doing the job would affect TVB's business, his client was not guilty.

"The special feature of this case is Chan has two identities: he is a general manager of the TVB and he is a celebrity," Tse said.

Tse also noted Chan's hosting job was "beneficial" to TVB and thereby gave him a reasonable excuse to expect he would have been allowed to accept the offer.

This led Mr Justice Wally Yeung Chun-kuen, vice-president of the Court of Appeal, to warn Tse: "[Your suggestion is] dangerous. People can then use it as an excuse to receive reward by saying that their act is beneficial to their principal." Yeung asked Tse to clarify his position when the hearing resumes today.

Chan was appointed chief executive of Commercial Radio in March, after resigning from TVB in December.

The appeal was heard by Yeung, Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau and Madam Justice Maria Yuen Ka-ning.