ICAC under fire as Barry Cheung corruption allegations go uninvestigated

Graft-buster says there is not enough information for the agency to take action

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 August, 2013, 3:36am

The Independent Commission Against Corruption has drawn flak for refusing to look into allegations against former Urban Renewal Authority chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen.

Cheung, a former top aide to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying who appointed him to the Executive Council, has been accused of taking HK$70 million of low-interest loans from a property developer when he ran the authority.

He had earlier been repeatedly singled out by political veteran Allen Lee Peng-fei in public remarks about his role in the alleged bribery case. The allegations prompted the Democratic Party in May to ask the ICAC to investigate the case.

Lee, of the Liberal Party and formerly a member of the executive and legislative councils, said the ICAC had not reached out to him before turning down the Democrats' request. "The ICAC has not contacted me about Cheung's case," he told the South China Morning Post.

Last night, the ICAC said it would consider following up the case if it had more information.

Cheung quit all his public posts in May amid a police investigation into allegedly forged documents regarding the failed Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange, which he founded.

He sued for defamation after Lee said he had "pretended to be rich" and "kept borrowing money here and there". Lee had said he had collected information about the loans.

Despite the lawsuit, the ICAC never tried to contact Lee about the case, the Democrats said yesterday.

Instead, the watchdog wrote in June to the party's chief executive, Lam Cheuk-ting, saying: "[Your allegations] are based on certain media reports … without any further information from you. The ICAC, after careful consideration, deems that the relevant complaint lacks sufficient information and basis for an investigation to be launched."

Lam, a former ICAC investigator for about four years, said it was "rare" that the agency did not even get in touch with Lee before closing the case.

"It is 'the A-B-C of investigations' to contact the source to see if there is any useful information, and whether a complaint is justifiable," he said.

Democrat lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan said the watchdog owed the public an explanation.

Cheung last night called the ICAC's decision "fair and reasonable", dismissing Lam's accusations as groundless.

"Political organisations should not abuse the ICAC's process. They should not use the watchdog to mount political attacks," he said.