Former ICAC chief Timothy Tong defiant after Legco condemnation

Former ICAC chief asks lawmakers to spell out exactly which rules were broken as a 90-page document condemns 'deplorable' overspending

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 November, 2013, 1:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 November, 2013, 4:04pm

Former anti-corruption chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming hit back yesterday after lawmakers issued their strongest condemnation yet of what they termed his "deplorable" overspending.

The one-time commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption called on the Public Accounts Committee to spell out clearly what rules he had broken and insisted his integrity had not been compromised.

Tong was responding to a 90-page report by the committee that reprimanded him for "ignorance or total disregard" of the rules and described his spending on official entertainment - often involving mainland officials - gifts and trips as "inexcusable".

"Which specific rule have I breached and in what ways?" Tong asked in a written statement. "If there were any insufficiencies or mistakes they had … nothing to do with my personal integrity." He added that they were "totally irrelevant" to his appointment as a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The committee said Tong's hosting of mainland officials who were not the ICAC's counterparts might have given rise to the perception that Tong "made use of his official capacity to build his personal network". It also said the serving of mao-tai, an expensive spirit favoured by officials and businessmen from the mainland, was unacceptable.

"Official business of the ICAC, which might be confidential in nature, could be divulged under the influence of alcohol," it said.

But Tong said he used mao-tai "to comply with the mainland culture of guest receptions at the time", adding: "If I had not intensified exchanges with the mainland, I would have fallen short of my duties."

Tong concluded: "No one is perfect, but no one is a complete catastrophe, either."

The ICAC's Community Relations Department drew stern criticism, including "grave dismay", for its slack monitoring of Tong's spending but its director, Julie Mu Fee-man, was not singled out in the report. She could still face scrutiny as ICAC chief Simon Peh Yun-lu said a "comprehensive" criminal probe was in progress. "All relevant departments, staff and non-staff will be included in the probe," Peh said in response to the report. "There may be some criminal outcome and some disciplinary actions for various people involved."

Despite differing statements given by Tong during the committee's hearings, vice-chairman Paul Tse Wai-chun said these were not tantamount to making false statements under oath.

"Making a false statement under oath is a very serious offence and the threshold to prove that is very high," Tse said.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said yesterday: "The administration attaches great importance to the incident in order … to maintain public confidence in the ICAC."

The committee held its first public hearings in May, then a second round prompted by suspected discrepancies between Tong's Legco testimony and an independent report's findings.