ICAC charges former chief executive ally Lew Mon-hung with conspiracy to defraud
Former Leung ally accused of conspiring to defraud investors and stock exchange over company's plans to buy natural gas and oil fields in US
The graft-buster charged Lew Mon-hung, a former ally of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, yesterday with conspiracy to defraud, hours after abandoning a court quest to secure records of a magazine interview with him.
Lew, 64, already faces a charge of perverting public justice by seeking to influence Leung and the ICAC head to halt the corruption investigation into listed company Pearl Oriental Oil, where he was formerly deputy chairman and executive director.
The latest two charges allege that from 2009 to 2011, Lew and three others conspired to defraud shareholders and potential investors of Pearl Oriental Innovation - the name of Pearl Oriental Oil at the time - as well as the stock exchange, about company plans to acquire natural gas and oil fields in Utah, United States.
The other three are company chairman Wong Kwan, 65; deputy financial officer and administrative manager Kitty Yip Sui-kuen, 44; and housewife Yik Siu-hung, 44. Yik also faces three counts of dealing with property - worth at least HK$390 million - known or believed to have been obtained illegally. They will appear in Eastern Court today.
Lew (pictured) was first arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption in January and again in February on suspicion of criminal intimidation and perverting the course of justice. He was charged with the latter offence in August and will enter a plea in December. The charge alleges that Lew sent two e-mails and a letter to Leung and ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu in January in which he tried to get them to stop the graft-busters' investigation because of his past association with Leung.
About two weeks after the alleged e-mails, Lew made explosive claims in an interview with the iSun Affairs weekly, accusing Leung of lying about how he had dealt with illegal structures at his home on The Peak.
The ICAC later sought to obtain through the High Court interview records from the publisher to ensure the "interview reports were accurate and reliable". It toned down its stance after the High Court rejected a similar demand for records of an interview with Lew on Commercial Radio.
Representing the ICAC yesterday, deputy director of public prosecutions Alain Sham Chung-ping sought only confirmation from the publisher that its report in January was an "accurate, full and complete record" of what Lew told its reporters.
Mr Justice Thomas Au Hing-cheung asked why the ICAC insisted on such a confirmation when the magazine's chief editor had already affirmed its staff "had complied with professional journalism … and reflected the true content of the interview".
Au also rejected an application for the request to be adjourned indefinitely, saying the agency could file another application or summon the reporter if necessary in a later stage of its inquiry into Lew. Sham then withdrew the requests for interview material and a confirmation.
An ICAC spokesman said it had always respected press freedom and had conducted the investigation in accordance with the law. It was legal and appropriate for it to apply for the requests for interview material, he said. He added the ICAC respected the court's decision and withdrew the application after consulting the Department of Justice.