The scandal surrounding former head graft-buster Timothy Tong Hin-ming should be investigated by the police, not the Independent Commission Against Corruption, to ensure impartiality, a former prosecutions chief says.
The call from former director of public prosecutions Grenville Cross came amid suggestions the ICAC had yet to decide how to handle the recent complaints against Tong.
Tong, appointed in February as a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member after stepping down as ICAC chief, was found to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from the public purse on gifts and lavish meals for mainland officials in his five-year tenure.
"Any investigation into Tong's behaviour must not only be impartial and fair, but must also be seen to be impartial and fair," Cross said, urging the ICAC to "transfer responsibility for the investigation to the police".
Given that the ICAC comprised Tong's former colleagues, Cross said an investigation had to be conducted by people who did not know him personally as a "basic principle of law enforcement" and "to command public confidence". The police had reason to investigate, he said, as the allegations involved an offence of misconduct in public office - an offence under common law.
If the ICAC declined to pass the case to the police, Cross said, commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu "must explain clearly what steps will be taken to ensure the integrity of the investigation, and to prevent any conflicts of interest".
Alternatively, the legislators who lodged the complaints with the ICAC should contact the police, renew their complaints and ask the force to take the lead in the investigation, he said.
An ICAC spokesman last night declined to comment on any individual case. The police also gave no comment.
Lawmaker Dr Joseph Lee Kok-long, a member of the ICAC's operations review committee, said the commission should stick to the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance which empowered it to investigate any corruption complaint. He expected the ICAC to seek legal advice on how to conduct an investigation to avoid a conflict of interest.