Troubled Hong Kong graft-buster turns to retired senior investigator to beef up key section

ICAC to rehire veteran crime fighter weeks after controversial removal of female high-flier

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 10:14pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 July, 2016, 11:00pm

Top-level turmoil inside the Independent Commission Against Corruption has taken a new twist after it emerged that the agency is to rehire a long-retired senior investigator to beef up its key investigative arm.

Just when it looked like weeks of uncertainty and rumour following the removal of Rebecca Li Bo-lan – the first woman to head the graft-buster’s powerful operations department – was dying down, sources have confirmed that former assistant director Ricky Chu Man-kin would be rehired “in a very senior position”.

Where to now for the ICAC?

The 63-year-old Chu, who left the commission in 2010 to become secretary-general of the Independent Police Complaints Council, is expected to return to his old stomping ground within the next few months.

His last job in the ICAC was director of corruption prevention, but during his 32-year career Chu worked as a frontline investigator on a number of big anti-graft cases.

A source with knowledge of the situation said: “Ricky has a ton of experience, both investigative and in terms of the broader community battle against corruption. He will come back into a very senior position.”

The move means that the top three men leading the ICAC’s crucial investigative unit will have the same English name, Ricky.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying stands firm on accusations about his role in ICAC controversy

At present, the acting head of the operations department following Li’s departure is Ricky Yau Shu-chun, while Ricky Yu Chun-cheong heads up investigations into government sector corruption.

It is understood that Ricky Chu could take over as head of operations as Yau’s acting appointment has been officially designated as “for administrative convenience”, meaning there is no guarantee he will step up permanently.

Almost a month of controversy began with Rebecca Li’s removal, rapidly followed by speculation that she had been pushed out for refusing to soft-peddle on the agency’s probe into a HK$50 million payment made to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying by an Australian company, UGL, prior to him taking office as city leader.

An internal backlash at the changes in operations management ensued and the principal investigator in the UGL case, Dale Ko, resigned, though it is uncertain if his reasons are related to Li’s removal or the UGL investigation.

Turmoil at ICAC after principal investigator becomes second departure in days from Hong Kong graft-buster

Then a scheduled ICAC annual dinner was cancelled after 75 per cent of staff said they would not attend in response to the recent events.

ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said that he alone made the decision to remove Li. Peh later said her removal was due to her failure to meet the job requirements, even though he had praised the decorated investigator’s work over a three-decade career and did not elaborate where she fell short.

Leung’s office has denied allegations that he was behind Li’s removal and accusations that his executive council’s secretariat had blocked ICAC requests for information in their probe of him.