• Thu
  • Dec 18, 2014
  • Updated: 1:56pm
Jimmy Lai
NewsHong Kong

ICAC raids media tycoon Jimmy Lai's home over donations to pan-democrats

Home of lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan also searched over an alleged link between media tycoon's gifts and Legco speech on press freedoms

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2014, 10:04am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 August, 2014, 7:20am
 

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Anti-graft officers yesterday raided the home of Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, the Next Media chief, Beijing critic and key donor to the pan-democratic camp.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption also searched the homes of Lai's assistant Mark Simon, who helped Lai supply money to lawmakers, and Labour Party legislator Lee Cheuk-yan, who admitted receiving HK$1.5 million from him.

Watch: Anti-corruption officers swooped on the Kowloon home of media mogul Jimmy Lai

Lai met the management of Next Media after the raid and said he had been prepared for it, according to a post on the Apple Daily website last night. "There's a price to pay for taking a stand," Lai said.

Lee said officers took bank documents from his office in the Legislative Council complex.

Simon said five ICAC officers searched his home.

"The timing is not coincidental, in our opinion," he said. "If you wanted to cool things down, this is the last thing you would do."

If you wanted to cool things down, this is the last thing you would do
MARK SIMON, A TOP AIDE TO LAI

On Wednesday, a draft framework for political reform in Hong Kong released in Beijing set tight restrictions on the 2017 chief executive election, dashing the hopes of pan-democrats.

An ICAC spokesman said it began its investigation after receiving corruption complaints accusing certain lawmakers of accepting advantages in breach of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. He said the agency acted impartially and without any political consideration.

The spotlight fell on Lai in July when leaked records revealed he had made donations of millions of dollars to pan-democrats.

Five pan-democratic lawmakers - including Lee - were caught in a political storm for allegedly failing to declare the donations to the legislature.

Lee said the watchdog made it clear it needed to investigate the relationship between Lai's donations to the party and a debate in Legco about editorial independence on January 21.

A copy of one of the search warrants seen by Reuters news agency also showed that the ICAC was looking for connections between payments or donations and the Legco debate.

In a Legco speech, Lee mentioned reports that Standard Chartered Bank had pulled ads from local newspapers under pressure from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying. Lee did not mention Lai's Apple Daily by name in the speech, according to minutes of the meeting.

The pro-democracy website House News - which closed last month citing political pressure and low ad revenue - reported in January that Leung and his allies had been pressing banks, including Standard Chartered, to pull ads from Apple Daily.

Former ICAC chief investigator Stephen Char Shik-ngor, now a barrister, doubted if a "valid or logical" case could be made over any link to Lee's speech.

"Press freedom is the core value of society - even Beijing-loyalists should defend it," he said.

 

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This article is now closed to comments

nmp_inc
Pretty much ends any discussion of ICAC being a political tool or not. HKSAR rule of law shot through the head.
paulcarolan
HK now looking a lot like Singapore/Malaysia. We can keep capitalism and rule of law, (sort of) but rich donors to pro democracy camp can expect politically motivated prosecution on tenuous grounds even though the system is rigged to prevent electoral change that does not meet PRC Govt approval!
superdx
How come pro-CCP politicians aren't investigated for the massive amounts of cash that is being injected into their campaigns?
aplucky1
Jimmy Lai is one of Hong Kong's greatest citizens
this is without a doubt a witch hunt that is politically motivated
Dai Muff
And whatever happened to the Donald Tsang investigation?
ryan.swift@scmp.com
Poor Lai. If only he had supported Beijing's pre-approved parties, organisations and candidates. He might have been rewarded with some exclusive publishing deal in China.
Paradox314
We can only guess at the enormous financial resources that must surely have been made available to the pro-Beijing 'united front'. And I also would understand that to be a normal part of the political process. There ought to be clear laws governing all such transactions though.
kctony
Don't know if he's great citizen.
But a businessman who refuses to kowtow to power certainly deserves respect.
S. Rogers
An observation from an American expat in HK (I know -- not a very popular kind of person): Politics costs money. It takes money to pay for organizing, publishing, communication etc., all of which are legitimate kinds of political activity. Most political parties in most countries in the world have wealthy donors. Of course there are issues of transparency and influence . . . but the simple fact that a wealthy person donates money to a political group isn't BY ITSELF a reason to reject the ideas or policies advocated by that group.
Dai Muff
It is not the first time the ICAC has been used for political ends and it will not be the last.

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