Buildings chief denies cover-up over CE's illegal structures

Au says facts were not hidden about illegal structures at chief executive's houses

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 6:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 November, 2012, 7:37pm

The Buildings Department chief has denied speculation that staff members hid key facts from the public about an investigation into illegal structures at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s houses on The Peak.

Director of Buildings Au Choi-kai said on Thursday, “the accusations are very unfair to our colleagues. I strongly state that these are not true.”

“These included accusations that they offered protection to the property’s owner during the investigation, and that they stopped the probe due to pressure from senior management.”

Au said his front-line officers in charge of the case had never even been pressured by senior officials to stop investigating Leung’s property, much less given in to such pressure.

The department did not acknowledge until Monday that its officers had found a suspicious looking wall at one of Leung’s houses during an inspection on June 26. The brick wall sealed off a house extension that may be illegal.

The wall was first mentioned by Leung last Friday in his statement explaining illegal structures at his home.

Media reports have suggested the department stopped the investigation due to pressure from senior government officials, and covered up the facts about the wall to protect Leung.

Au, commenting on the investigation for the first time, said these accusations were groundless and untrue.

Inspectors decided that the brick wall at Leung’s property posed no apparent safety risk, Au said. Therefore the department decided to ask the owner for further information about it instead of immediately ordering demolition.

As for why the department had not acknowledged seeing the brick wall before Monday, Au said it was departmental procedure not to disclose details of an ongoing investigation.

The department said on Monday that it had sent four letters to Leung asking for more information about the wall. But Leung ignored all the requests, saying a legal challenge to his election victory launched by lawmakers in July, prevented him from working with the department.