• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 11:01pm
NewsHong Kong
CORRUPTION

ICAC 'used' to taint political reputations, says former No 2

People with 'motives' may seek to damage the reputations of high-profile foes by filing graft complaints, says agency's former No 2

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 February, 2013, 12:53pm

People who make high-profile corruption complaints are trying to use the ICAC to tarnish the reputations of political opponents, according to a former No 2 in the anti-graft agency.

Tony Kwok Man-wai says people with "political motives" may see a complaint - however lacking in substance - as an easy way to inflict political and personal damage.

A senior legal source agreed that people were "politicising" the process and called on the ICAC to decide sooner whether complaints had substance.

Kwok, a former Independent Commission Against Corruption deputy commissioner, backed chief executive Leung Chun-ying during his election campaign.

His comments come as ICAC investigations into four of Hong Kong's most senior officials - past and present - continue and as corruption trials await two other former senior officials.

"When the ICAC tell them [the complainants] they will start to investigate, they tell the press about it in a high-profile way as if the person under investigation had been convicted," said Kwok, who retired from the ICAC in 2002 after 33 years of service.

He said the anti-graft agency pursued cases even if evidence was weak and in many cases the opening of an investigation was a legal requirement and largely procedural.

Critics say Kwok's comments could detract from the ICAC's legal obligation to take seriously all complaints - especially against the rich and powerful - wherever they come from.

Separate investigations into corruption allegations, some more serious than others, are under way into Leung, his predecessor Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Henry Tang Ying-yen, who stood against Leung in last year's race for the top job.

Former government No2 Rafael Hui Si-yan is set to appear in the city's biggest corruption trial later this year alongside billionaire property tycoon brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, 61, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, 59 - the co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties.

Last July, then-development minister Mak Chai-kwong and assistant highways director Tsang Kin-man were arrested with their wives. They are suspected of leasing their flats to each other in the 1980s, allegedly cheating the government of housing allowances.

The controversy forced Mak to step down just days after taking office. Both men were charged in October and await trial.

And executive councillor Franklin Lam Fan-keung, a major real estate investor, is being investigated over the sale of two flats weeks before the government introduced new curbs on the property market in October.

Section 30 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance makes it an offence to disclose the identity of a person under investigation. But the legal source pointed out that trying to take action under that provision could be a minefield.

"There's no doubt the process is becoming politicised but can you imagine the outcry if action was taken ... against someone who had told the media about a complaint they had made against a politically powerful figure? The media would have a field day," the source said. "Perhaps the ICAC needs to close things down quicker."

But League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen, who made the complaints against Tsang, Lam and Leung, said all the complaints had grounds. "All the cases have reasonable doubts ... that the officials had done something unlawful," he said.

Barrister and former ICAC investigator Stephen Char Sik-ngor said the commission had always encouraged people to make complaints and the public would be able to judge if they were legitimate or not.

James To Kung-sun, a Democratic Party lawmaker and vice-chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, said the fact there were so many high-profile cases indicated corruption had become more serious.

"Some cases like the Rafael Hui case have been taken to court. We cannot say the situation is not serious," he said.

Despite suffering staff shortages, the ICAC is investigating more high-profile cases at once than at any time in its near 40-year history.

Last year, former ICAC commissioner Timothy Tong Hin-ming had his term extended for the second time - until June 30. He was succeeded by former director of immigration Simon Peh Yun-lu. Former head of operations Daniel Li Ming-chak also had his term extended twice.

It was widely expected that director of operations Rebecca Li Bo-lan would succeed Daniel Li. But instead the ICAC drafted in retired director of operations Ryan Wong Sai-chiu head of operations.

Legco recently approved funding for the ICAC to hire an extra assistant director of operations to help handle the huge Sun Hung Kai investigation.

 


In The ICAC's Sights

  • Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying faces a fresh ICAC graft investigation over the chief executive election last year, after his former ally Lew Mon-hung turned on him in an interview last month with iSun Affairs magazine. Lew said Leung lied over his handling of illegal structures at his Peak homes and considered pan-democrats "enemies". It is the second time Leung has been under investigation by the ICAC since he assumed office. In December, it dropped a probe of a complaint alleging he gave false statements over at least six illegal structures at his homes.
     
  • Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen is under investigation for accepting favours from tycoon friends. He is accused of accepting advantages in connection with overseas trips and a bargain retirement penthouse deal over the border.
     
  • Former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen: Tang's bid to become Hong Kong's chief executive was torpedoed after an illegally constructed 2,250 sq ft basement was discovered at his home in February last year. The construction of the basement is now under investigation by the Buildings Department.
     
  • Former chief secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan: Hui was arrested at his home in March last year. Also held were brothers Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, who control Hong Kong's biggest property developer, Sun Hung Kai. The probe centres on Hui's alleged relationship with Sun Hung Kai over several years when he was in and out of government. The three have been charged with bribery and misconduct in public office.
     
  • Mak Chai-kwong was forced to resign as development minister after 12 days amid an investigation into alleged abuse of housing allowances when he was a civil servant. He pleaded not guilty to fraud last month.

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8

This article is now closed to comments

RobinDeCaro
Reply to the comment of billmpcb:
Your main concern is whether ICAC will cook evidences for the sake of successful prosecution;to erase your doubt you will need further evidences.But I remember a court case two or three decades ago in which ICAC was condemned by judge:that was an undercover infiltrated a drug traf**** syndicate who successfully dismantled it and brought members involved to justice.But the judge said the undercover actually took part in the sort of activities resulting in more supply in the drug market.
I think such act is primitive and barbaric.If there is an influx of ammunition to HK,should the government sent undercover to actually take part in?What's the differences between crime syndicate and government then?Crime syndicate protected by law?
billmpcb
The objective purpose of the founding of ICAC was to eradicate corruption. How do we define corruption? Is corruption only apply to the giver and taker in terms of monetary benefit or benefit in kind in discharge of a favor or a cover up by the taker? When ICAC opened the case it is often publicized. Indirectly, the accused is convicted by the drama and bad publicity before he is proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The damage is already inflicted on the poor soul, in reputation, family and business. Having done this damage, do you think ICAC can afford not to win and will it not do it's best to protect the name of ICAC and the government by hook or by crook to win? The investigating officer has a great burden that his position and/or promotion greatly rely on his success in a conviction. The name of ICAC and the reputation of the government cannot permit him to fail in winning a conviction. It all amounts to premature arrests and trigger-happy publicity ego. Then the case took months or years to finally charge the person. Why? Because you need time to cook the evidence. Say in a situation of cooking the evidence with underhand tactics, coaxing, favor given to witnesses with immunity, etc, is this to be classified a sort of corruption? Can the officer be charged for corruption because he "cooked" the evidence because he wants his contract renewed, extended or promotion? My question is, corruption is just monetary benefit or benefit in kind, but also greed and fear of losing
RobinDeCaro
POLITICAL DONATIONS IN HONG KONG
Whymak says Cathnal Zen and Anson Chan received donations;it is only tip of the ice-berg.Nearly all the political parties no matter pro-establishment or pro-democratic received donations from HK businessmen and Jimmy Lai (see Wikipedia....district council...2011),and some of the donations are handsome.
2."Cap 554 s 7 Corrupt conduct to bribe candidates or prospective candidates"of HK Ordinance stipulates acts that constitutes corrupt election. I wonder the use of such funding;it may be used for running the political parties,but will it be election related in some degree?
3.The yardstick of ICAC's investigation is vague,this department always promoting publicity of it's efficiency and indepenence,would it be too passive to probe upon compliants,not to probe actively?Or else an image of selective investigation is created,or been used as a bipartisan power struggle weapon.
4.Singapore has passed Political Donations Act in 2000 which seeks to prevent foreign groups from interfering in domestic politics through donations to political associations,parliamentary election candidates and presidential election candidates.In HK why such a mess?
megafun
this culture is popularized by the Government & especially the police, through their selective arrests and prosecution. Whistling is one case which comes to mind immediately! I have heard and seen loufer whistling, at closer proximity, at Rugby 7s, and yet I have never seen any complaint or police action - such as a "warning".
hard times !
i wonder whether the one/source who disclosed that Dream Bear, Lew Mong-hung was being investigated by the ICAC the day (24th Jan.) an interview of him published in iSun Affairs Chinese weekly magazine would be prosecuted and duly charged with breaching Article 30 of anit-bribery ordinance.As an independent disciplinary institution, our respectful ICAC seniors should actively finding out the source/culprit in disclosing such a vital information to the media on January 24th evening (at the smae time to many local media )which claimed that Mr.Lew was arrested by the ICAC on Jan.8th and is now on bail, awaiting a court hearing as he is involved in corruption case related to his listed company--the Orient Pearl Oil. All is equla before the law and no one is exempted from the law is a basic principle which should be upheld.No matter the person/people who disclosed the news are Leung fans, government officials or staff of Leung's office. Right ?
ianson
The article does readers a disservice in failing to make a distinction between a complaint, an arrest and a charge. Mr Kwok is quoted only of criticising politicised complaints and it would be a very different thing had he included arrests and charges, too, yet your article throws into the debate high profile arrests and charges, confusing the issue completely.
Mr Kwok's comment is misguided, in any event. No one should be discouraged from reporting an incident he/she honestly believes to be a breach of the law. If someone cooks up false complaints, he will face charges himself. Which is not to say people don't try to use the police/ICAC to their own advantage - nothing new in that - but to discourage complaints is to encourage lawlessness.
whymak
What about those large sums of money donated into the personal purses of Cardinal Zen, Anson Chan On Sun by James Lai Chee Ying? How come ICAC is not investigating?
Reasonable people could think of two possibilites: Subversion activities on the mainland and quid pro quos.
RobinDeCaro
POLITICAL DONATIONS IN HONG KONG
Whymak says Cathnal Zen and Anson Chan received donations;it is only tip of the ice-berg.Nearly all the political parties no matter pro-establishment or pro-democratic received donations from HK businessmen and Jimmy Lai (see Wikipedia....district council...2011),and some of the donations are handsome.
2."Cap 554 s 7 Corrupt conduct to bribe candidates or prospective candidates" HK Ordinance stipulates acts that constitutes corrupt election. I wonder the use of such funding;it may be used for running the political parties,but will it be election related in some degree?
3.The yardstick of ICAC's investigation is vague,this department always promoting publicity of it's efficiency and indepenences,would it be too passive to probe upon compliants,not to probe actively?Or else an image of selective investigation is created,or been used as a bipartisan power struggle weapon.
4.Singapore has passed Political Donations Act in 2000 which seeks to prevent foreign groups from interfering in domestic politics through donations to political associations,parliamentary election candidates and presidential election candidates.In HK why such a mess?

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