A lawmaker says he has transferred a media mogul's HK$500,000 donation from his personal bank account to that of his Labour Party to fund a food-waste recycling initiative.
Lee Cheuk-yan made the transfer just days ago, though he confirmed having received the money from Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying in autumn, as records leaked to the media had indicated.
Lee dismissed criticism that his belated action was intended as a "remedy" after news broke last week that he accepted donations totalling HK$1.5 million from Lai without declaring them to the Legislative Council.
He said yesterday he could not move the money sooner because the registration process for the enterprise had been delayed.
"We had thought the enterprise could be set up under the Societies Ordinance in January, but the registration was done only in June, after rounds of dealing with police," Lee told RTHK.
A police spokesman confirmed it received an application for the registration of the group, Green Initiative, in January. It was registered as a society on June 18, after organisers provided the necessary documents.
Lee said the enterprise's own bank account would not be ready for a couple of weeks.
The other HK$1 million, which Lee received from Lai just a couple of weeks ago, was moved from his account to the party's soon afterwards, Lee said. The party planned to use most of it to campaign in next year's district council elections, he said.
The party yesterday published minutes of a meeting in July last year on the creation of Green Initiative, and a bank receipt showing the transfer of HK$1.5 million, dated Tuesday.
Hundreds of files, apparently stolen from the computer of a close associate of Lai, appear to show the tycoon donated millions of dollars to pan-democratic parties and politicians.
Lee is one of five pan-democratic lawmakers accused of failing to declare Lai's donations. All five must give an explanation to Legco's committee on members' interests within two weeks, after which the committee will decide whether an inquiry is necessary.
"I received the money only on behalf of the party," Lee said. "I have not spent a cent."
Lee conceded it would have been better to transfer the HK$500,000 earlier but said he could prove that the funds were not for him personally.
Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said Lee's actions were unacceptable.