Stunned Legco panel may quiz Timothy Tong again

Former ICAC chief suspected of lying under oath after new independent report contrasts with answers he gave lawmakers back in May

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 4:15am

Former ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming may be hauled up before lawmakers again to clarify his spending at the graft-buster, after his testimony to them in May is suspected to differ from the newly released findings of an independent review committee.

Tong is also accused of having made false statements under oath during the hearings of the Legislative Council's Public Accounts Committee - a criminal offence under the Crimes Ordinance that warrants up to seven years in jail.

Legislators on the committee said they were taken aback by details in the independent committee's report, issued on Thursday.

They had been close to reaching a verdict and had expected to audit the first draft of their own report on Wednesday.

Now they plan to compare the testimonies and recordings from the May hearings with Thursday's report, committee chairman Abraham Razack said. "If necessary, we will call for further hearings," he said yesterday.

Committee member Kenneth Leung said he was shocked after reading the report.

Leung suspected Tong might have misled them when testifying in May. It was evident Tong's official trips included activities not related to work, he said.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, deputy chairman of the committee, said Tong owed the public an explanation on possible discrepancies.

In May, Tong attended three of the five Legco hearings convened to investigate his alleged lavish spending on entertainment as ICAC commissioner between 2007 and last year.

Other witnesses included the ICAC's incumbent chief, Simon Peh Yun-lu.

Former ICAC investigator Lam Cheuk-ting, of the Democratic Party, suspected Tong of swearing false oaths before Legco. Lam said his party would be urging the committee to hold a second round of hearings.

He noted, for example, that Tong had claimed all his official trips were approved by then chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. However, no approval was found for his visits to Lijiang and Leshan on the mainland in 2009 and 2010, the Thursday report said.

Tong had also testified that mainland officials had planned the itineraries of those two trips and that he had learned of the details only after arrival.

"The report revealed the trip to Lijiang needed advance flight and accommodation arrangements," Lam said. "I don't believe the arrangements were done after Tong's arrival."

He said Tong might have violated the Legislative Council (Power and Privileges) Ordinance in intentionally giving false answers. The offence warrants a fine of HK$50,000 and two years in jail. In addition, the Crimes Ordinance states that anyone who, being authorised by law to make any statement on oath, wilfully makes a false statement is liable to seven years in jail and a fine.

Last night, Tong said through his legal team that the recommendations in the review report had addressed to a very large extent loopholes found in the ICAC procedures.

He declined to comment further as the agency was still investigating him. "I will offer a thorough response after all the relevant investigations are done. It would not just be fairer and more reasonable to the public, but also to the ICAC and to me."