Mak Chai-kwong 'sorry for dragging Tsang King-man down'
Convicted former development chief regrets involving a 'good friend' who could lose his pension over the housing benefits fraud
Disgraced former development minister Mak Chai-kwong has publicly expressed his regret for involving his "good friend" in the fraudulent housing benefits case.
He also said that he and assistant highways director Tsang King-man would remain lifelong friends.
Looking relieved as he left the District Court building with solicitor David Hui Tin-fook after receiving his suspended jail sentence, Mak ignored some of the media's questions.
After thanking his family and friends, Mak, 62, said: "I am very sorry for involving Mr Tsang in this particular case. Mr Tsang was my good friend, and he continues to be my good friend. I think we will be friends for life."
But Tsang, when asked whether he and Mak remained friends, only looked blankly at the press. There was silence for about 10 seconds before journalists asked him another question.
Cheng Huan SC, for Tsang, 57, said in yesterday's mitigation submissions that it was a "particularly sad" incident for his client. "Perhaps it was unlikely that such investigations would have taken place if not - with respect - for [Mak's] political aspirations," he said, adding that Tsang, who has been suspended from duty since October 17 last year and is due to retire next year, might lose up to HK$4 million in pension money.
Former civil service chief Joseph Wong Wing-ping said the Civil Service Bureau would hold a disciplinary hearing on completion of the legal proceedings, including any appeals. He said Tsang's pension would be revoked if the bureau imposed the maximum penalty.
Mak is still receiving his monthly pension after retiring as the Development Bureau's permanent secretary. Wong said Mak should have received half his pension as a lump sum, but that he could lose the monthly pension if the bureau found that his wrongdoing had damaged his peers' reputation.
The bureau said it would process Tsang's case in accordance with established procedures, including consulting the Public Service Commission. The gravity and nature of the offence, as well as factors including the officer's position and his disciplinary records, would be taken into account, it said.
The court hearings revealed that Mak and Tsang were classmates during their master's programme in urban planning at the University of Hong Kong in the 1980s. Mak earlier told graft-busters that he and Tsang met by chance in a queue to buy the two flats they cross-leased at the City Garden estate in North Point.
It is not the first such case. Four civil servants have been convicted of offences involving housing benefits in the past 12 years. Last August, former assistant lands director Patrick Fan Yung-cheong was sentenced to eight months' jail, suspended for two years, for cheating the government out of more than HK$1.3 million in housing benefits between 1987 and 1995.
In December 2000, former Inland Revenue Department deputy commissioner Agnes Sin Law Yuk-lin and her husband, Sin Kam-chuen, a civil engineering department official, each received a nine-month suspended jail term for cheating the government of HK$330,000 in rental allowances between 1983 and 1986.
That same year, former deputy director of the now-defunct Regional Services Department, Anthony Woo Sik-jan, was jailed for five months on 33 counts of theft. Woo began receiving a monthly mortgage allowance of HK$27,000 for his Happy Valley flat in 1991 but he rented out the flat from 1996 to 1998.