Ex-ICAC boss faces graft probe for allegedly dining out on public money

Former staffer submits written complaint about Timothy Tong's alleged misconduct to watchdog, with lawmakers set to follow

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 8:31am

Former anti-graft chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming faces investigation by his former subordinates as new evidence suggests he used public money to treat officials from Beijing's liaison office.

The Democratic Party's Lam Cheuk-ting, who was an investigator for the Independent Commission Against Corruption when Tong was in charge, sent a written complaint to the ICAC yesterday about Tong's alleged misconduct and possible breaches of bribery laws. Pan-democrat lawmakers will submit complaints today.

Tong was said to have hosted receptions with liaison office officials at least 20 times during his five-year tenure using public funds, Ming Pao Daily reported yesterday. On some occasions, his girlfriend Dr Helen Chan Wing-mui, a former assistant director of immigration, and a friend, tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau, were invited, it was reported.

"As a former investigator, I have mixed feelings … Tong's own personal conduct is no reflection on the core values of other investigators," Lam said.

As a former investigator, I have mixed feelings … Tong's own personal conduct is no reflection on the core values of other investigators
Democratic Party's Lam Cheuk-ting

Zhang Xiaoming , director of the liaison office, said it was "very normal" for Tong to have hosted receptions with his officials, but he did not elaborate.

Lam questioned if Tong had discussed investigations with the liaison office, which would breach Section 30 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. And taking friends to official meals would constitute misconduct in public office. Lam also said Tong could have breached Section 9 if he made up false invoices to cover his friends' meals.

ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said it was gathering records on Tong's receptions with the office and would investigate whenever it received a corruption report.

"For the nine to 10 months I have been in office, I have not had meals with [officials of] the liaison office, nor have I sent any gifts to them," Peh said.

Asked if it was appropriate for Tong to bring a friend and girlfriend to official meals, Peh replied: "Official meals are only for people involved in the business."

It was earlier revealed that Tong had approved spending of more than HK$77,000 when hosting two lavish dinners for mainland officials. The amount spent on each individual exceeded HK$1,000 - well above the limit of HK$450. He also spent more than HK$154,000 on gifts to mainland officials, and HK$757,921 on 34 duty trips, 19 of them to the mainland.

Lam said the system should be reviewed and suggested the advisory committee on corruption, which oversees the ICAC's general work, monitor spending.

But Peh said overspending could be approved by the ICAC commissioner or department heads as long as they were self-disciplined.

Democratic Party lawmakers Emily Lau Wai-hing and James To Kun-sun urged Tong to attend a Legislative Council security panel meeting on the matter.

But panel chairman Ip Kwok-him, a Beijing loyalist, rejected the idea of summoning Tong, saying it was not a policy matter.