How corruption scandal of shamed prosecutor Warwick Reid unfolded

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 5:40am

It was Black Hawk Down, but not on the war-torn streets of Somalia depicted in Ridley Scott's 2001 Hollywood blockbuster.

The date was November 29, 1994, and the venue was the maximum security Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre in the New Territories.

The notoriety of Warwick Reid, who rose to the position of Hong Kong's top prosecutor, and the perceived threat to his safety forced the British colonial government into drastic action.

Officials deemed it necessary to fly him to the Cathay Pacific jumbo waiting to deport him at the old Kai Tak Airport in a HK$100 million Black Hawk helicopter. Reid, who four years earlier had been convicted of taking HK$12.4 million in bribes as the city's acting Director of Public Prosecutions, had cut a plea deal to minimise his sentence by turning Crown witness.

It afforded him a status unlike any other prisoner, including the helicopter ride.

The story of Reid's downfall, arrest, escape to the criminal underworld of Manila - via Macau and Guangdong - his re-arrest by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and subsequent attempts to incriminate friends and foes alike is the stuff of legend.

Bribes, boats, guns, sleazy Manila nightclubs, treachery, suicide and a whole lot more, the story is a perfect fit for the "you couldn't make it up'' category.

Bribes, boats, guns, sleazy Manila nightclubs, treachery, suicide and a whole lot more, the story is a perfect fit for the "you couldn't make it up'' category

In 1989, Reid was the acting DPP and head of the Commercial Crime Unit of the then Legal Department, now the Department of Justice.

For three years he had been taking bribes from people who believed he could influence their prosecutions.

After a three-month inquiry by the ICAC he was arrested. He then escaped to Macau, the mainland and the Philippines, where he hung out with triad bosses and fellow fugitives.

He was recaptured, turned Crown witness and was sentenced to eight years after vowing to kill his brother Michael, who he said tipped off the ICAC.

Michael - also a lawyer - later committed suicide in New Zealand after being sent to a psychiatric institution in the brothers' home town of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty.

After Reid was deported, he was jailed in New Zealand for 2-1/2 years for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Reid pleaded guilty to charges relating to a HK$5.37 million pay-off for swearing a false affidavit on behalf of jailed Hong Kong tycoon Ch'ng Poh.

A string of former legal colleagues have reacted with anger and astonishment at the latest twist in the tale.

One who still works in a legal practice in Hong Kong and was a colleague of Reid during the years that led to his downfall, said: "He just can't seem to shake off that stench of corruption."

Indeed, a look at the address of his new venture ReidLegal bears that out - it is based at a place called Sulphur Point.