Henry Tang lashes out, 'very simple' illegal basement case was made 'complicated'
With hearing against his wife over an illegal basement at their home adjourned, he queries spending of so much taxpayers' money on it
Thomas Chan and Austin Chiu
The case against the wife of failed chief executive contender Henry Tang Ying-yen over a lavish illegal basement at their home was adjourned to next year amid a dispute with prosecutors over allegations made in court yesterday.
Outside court, a frustrated Tang questioned how a "very simple" case had become so complicated, given that his wife, Lisa Kuo Yu-chin, had already admitted an offence, and why so much taxpayers' money had been spent on it. "We have been open and frank. We have co-operated with the investigation. We are prepared to take responsibility for our actions."
He said Kuo had strong reservations about disputed parts of the case because they were not true. Kuo pleaded guilty to one of two charges over illegal building works and was expected to be sentenced yesterday after prosecutors offered no evidence on the second.
But Kowloon City Court Magistrate Ko Wai-hung adjourned the case to February 7 after Kuo disputed a prosecution allegation that she had insisted on pressing ahead with construction despite being warned against it by a structural engineer whom she later sacked.
The two camps will decide then whether a special hearing is needed to argue the disputed allegations. The adjournment will delay sentencing until a separate trial of three others who have pleaded not guilty to charges over their roles in building the basement has ended. A legal expert welcomed the move, saying Kuo's sentence should take account of all facts to be stated at the trial.
Magistrate Clement Lee Hing-nin passed the case to Ko because Lee is to try the other three defendants - architect Henry Ho Chung-yi, structural engineer Wong Pak-lam and contractor Hien Lee Engineering - in a hearing due to start on November 27.
In the prosecution's case over the first charge - admitted by Kuo - government counsel Catherine Ko Po-chui said that during a meeting in September 2003 about the design of the house at 7 York Road, Kowloon Tong, architect Ho had said it had to incorporate a basement to be built together with the foundations.
But engineer Chezy Tang had objected, Ko said. "Chezy Tang advised Lisa Kuo that approval and consent from the Building Authority was required for the construction of a basement."
The engineer later received a call from Kuo who said she intended to appoint another engineer to oversee construction of the basement, reported to cover 2,400 sq ft and include a wine cellar.
Tang will be the first prosecution witness in the trial of the other three defendants.
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal law lecturer at the University of Hong Kong, welcomed the postponement. He said if it was proved that Kuo ignored the engineer's warning, it would make her offence more serious and the sentence more severe.