Notes on a scandal: the bribe diaries that sealed top Hong Kong cop's fate

Logbooks detailing the kickbacks taken by the notorious Peter Fitzroy Godber are to go on show as part of anti-corruption body's anniversary

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 4:13am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 February, 2014, 4:13am

The name Peter Fitzroy Godber is synonymous with corruption in Hong Kong, and three leather-bound logbooks kept by the former police chief superintendent are set to further cement that reputation when they are put on public display for the first time this week.

The bribes listed inside are striking enough, but the meticulous detail with which he kept his accounts and the way the logbooks themselves were protected in zippered leather pouches shed new light on just what kind of man he is or was - his whereabouts are unknown, although it has been suggested he is residing in Spain or the south of England. If still alive he would be 91.

When investigators found the logbooks after a search of Godber's quarters and car in 1973, he knew his fate was sealed.

The books belong to the library of the Independent Commission Against Corruption but have been placed carefully with gloved hands in a special display cabinet on the second floor exhibition hall of the anti-corruption agency's North Point headquarters - ready to be viewed by the public during open days to be held this month in celebration of the ICAC's 40th anniversary.

In 1971, an internal police investigation into Godber's activities codenamed "Havana" made little headway and it was only when he applied for early retirement in 1973 that a tip-off was received about large remittances sent to Canada, Australia, Singapore and other countries.

It led to the discovery of mountains of cash in bank accounts held by Godber - and the logbooks trace that cash back to its source.

Each logbook - one covering Hong Kong Island, another the New Territories and the third Kowloon - is in mint condition, with the pages revealing exact addresses of vice, gambling and drug syndicates in the early 1970s.

Godber also typed the dates and categories of the bribes such as "prostitute", "greyhound", "street gambling" and "night mahjong school".

Godber amended the logs with handwritten notes, adding dates and neat ticks, possibly in reference to when bribes were paid.

In one week in July 1971, he marked the collection of bribes from gambling dens housed in tea houses along Hennessy Road, Queens Road East, Wan Chai Road, Jaffe Road, Percival Street and more, all listed under the heading "Eastern".

In an orange pen, he wrote figures ranging from HK$12,000 to HK$14,000. Elsewhere, he added handwritten footnotes to addresses such as "moved to" and "closed down", so he knew exactly where to collect his bribes.

In the binder for Kowloon, a simple but effective map shows the corner of Shanghai and Dundas Streets with arrows pinpointing the exact location of massage parlours, sex workers and restaurants home to gambling.

The logbooks were found shortly after Godber was suspended from duty and asked to explain his finances under the prevention of bribery ordinance.

He escaped Hong Kong in June 1973, making it back to Britain via Singapore. However, in 1975, he was brought back to Hong Kong to face trial. He was later found guilty and sentenced to four years in jail.

Other exhibits include a copy of the partial amnesty announced by the then governor Lord Murray MacLehose to pardon low-level corruption committed prior to 1977, in an attempt to quell unrest after police stormed the ICAC offices earlier that year.

In addition to the open days, the ICAC will host a reception this Friday with chief executive Leung Chun-ying and other senior officials scheduled to attend.


Hong Kong anti-corruption officers have never used their guns

After rigorous physical and psychometric tests, there are fewer than 100 officers within the Independent Commission Against Corruption who have undergone specialist training in how to handle firearms.

But in its 40-year history, not a single officer has ever pulled the trigger during operations to collect evidence or arrest suspects.

Tony Lo, a senior ICAC investigator, said armed officers were deployed to assist arrests "quite often", adding: "It's not on a day-to-day basis but depends on the case.

"Most of our suspects are wanted for alleged white-collar crime so they are not committing serious violent offences."

Armed officers were sent out only when a suspect was deemed violent, he said.

Only investigators from the witness protection and firearms section can carry firearms.

During a media preview yesterday ahead of three open days to be held later this month for the ICAC's 40th anniversary, Lo detailed the types of guns that officers have carried since the watchdog was formed.

In the early days, officers carried Smith & Wesson guns before an upgrade to the semi-automatic Glock 19 pistol in 2005, which is now the standard-issue firearm.