City Telecom chairman Ricky Wong sues ATV over theft claim
Ricky Wong takes broadcaster to court over allegations aired in TV news programmes that he stole documents from Tai Po headquarters.
Amy Nip, Austin Chiu and Vivienne Chow
City Telecom chairman Ricky Wong Wai-kay is taking ATV and its executive director, James Shing Pan-yu, to court for defamation after the television station made a police report accusing him of theft.
ATV told police on Tuesday that Wong had stolen data and documents from its headquarters in Tai Po. Wong was chief executive of the broadcaster for 12 days in 2008.
In a writ filed with the High Court yesterday, Wong and his company CTI claim that Shing made defamatory statements on Saturday and Monday that were aired on ATV and iCable news programmes. The broadcasts can still be viewed on ATV's website, the court document says.
Wong is asking the court to impose an injunction barring Shing and ATV from making further defamatory statements and is seeking compensation and legal costs.
Earlier in the day, Shing said he had secured witnesses and evidence to back up the theft allegation.
"I would advise Ricky to surrender to the police," he told reporters. He denied that the station made the police report to delay the government's processing of applications for new free-television licences. Wong is one of three licence applicants.
Wong told reporters that he would no longer comment on "crazy behaviour" and a "farce".
His company placed a full-page advertisement in both the Apple Daily and Oriental Daily yesterday, asking readers to write to the Office of the Chief Executive if they supported having more free-television players.
Meanwhile, former government information co-ordinator Andy Ho On-tat expressed dismay at Shing's claim that he had helped Wong conduct publicity work to lobby lawmakers to support CTI's licence application.
Ho said he was never involved in arrangements on free-television licences during his time as a civil servant. He said Shing's claim was fabricated and he reserved the right to take the matter to court.
ATV is also facing legal action from Taiwanese snack tycoon and stakeholder Tsai Eng-meng, who accuses Shing and his relative, major investor Wong Ching, of misconduct and mismanagement of the station.
Tsai's San Want Media Holdings controls 49 per cent of shares in Antenna Investment, which owns a 47 per cent stake in ATV.
San Want sought leave from the High Court on Tuesday to apply for an independent supervisor to be appointed to the station's board of directors. The company said ATV was at a real risk of losing its licence if the mismanagement was allowed to continue. The court allowed the application.
Tsai's court bid is the latest development in shareholder disputes at ATV that have been making headlines in the past few years.
Barrister Albert Luk Wai-hung said it would be hard for a company to prove that a former executive had stolen confidential materials. "Many chief executives make copies of documents and read them at home," Luk said. Footage that showed an executive reading or making copies of documents was not enough to back a theft claim, he said.
In the eyes of the court, theft is characterised by dishonesty and permanent deprivation of a property. To establish the case against Wong, Luk said one must prove the executive had joined a company in order to access confidential information and planned in advance that he would quit shortly after.