Former DPP: Justice Department should not take market regulator's prosecuting power
Former director of public prosecutions says Justice Department should let regulator handle its cases and instead boost staff morale
The Justice Department should not take over the prosecuting power of the securities and futures market regulator, says ex-director of public prosecutions Grenville Cross, who also spoke of the department's low morale due to its management style.
His remarks were out of tune with those of Kevin Zervos, who resigned as director of public prosecutions (DPP) in September and has joined the judiciary.
Zervos had called for the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) to hand over its prosecution power as it "lacked sufficient internal regulation and oversight", adding that the watchdog's power to prosecute could lead to conflicts over its investigative and regulatory role.
But Cross, in an open letter addressed to the incumbent DPP Keith Yeung Ka-hung, argued otherwise. "Unless there is to be a vast increase in the department's prosecutorial strength, which seems unlikely, it is surely in its own interest that the SFC should be able, like other statutory bodies, to initiate its own prosecutions, provided prosecution policy guidelines are strictly followed," he said.
Cross also called on Yeung to re-establish a good working relationship between the Justice Department and the SFC.
"Abrasiveness must never again be allowed to poison the partnership, not least because this undermines effective enforcement action," he said.
Cross, who had earlier openly criticised Zervos for his inability to prompt the anti-graft watchdog to speed up the investigation of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's alleged favours from tycoons, again said there were a series of sensitive cases - which Yeung inherited from Zervos - that "should have been resolved long since".
These included Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's alleged illegal structures at his home and former graft-buster chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming's alleged lavish spending of taxpayers' money.
Cross also urged Yeung to be transparent in handling the cases to promote public confidence, and as well taking the initiative towards any suspected "dragging" of investigations.
"If, however, you suspect that a particular enforcement agency is dragging its feet on a sensitive investigation … you will need to crack the whip, and not simply sit back and await developments," Cross told the incumbent.
Cross, who is now an honorary law professor at Hong Kong University, added Yeung should restore "a more civilised managerial style" for the Justice Department's prosecution division, after a number of senior prosecutors, including two newly appointed deputies left the department "prematurely", as it would be "good for morale".
A Justice Department spokeswoman said the prosecution division had a good succession plan, but could not comment on any deputy DPP leaving lately.