Donald Tsang ‘hopelessly compromised’ chief executive duty, court hears
Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had “hopelessly compromised” his position and abused his power, a court heard yesterday, as prosecutors alleged that he and his wife had accepted HK$3.35 million worth of undisclosed benefits, partly from Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po.
Rolling out the prosecution’s case against the former chief executive, David Perry QC painted Tsang, 72, as a man of “divided loyalty” embroiled in a “classic conflict of interest situation” before he stepped down in 2012 after a seven-year tenure.
“His public position was hopelessly compromised because of the competing interests,” Perry said. “The defendant abused his office by using it to further his private and personal interests.”
Tsang, who appeared relaxed but coughed occasionally in the dock, had earlier pleaded not guilty to one count of accepting an advantage as the chief executive and two counts of misconduct in public office. The charges involved a three-storey rental penthouse in Shenzhen.
Refurbishment of the luxury home cost HK$3 million, paid entirely by a company under businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau, the Court of First Instance heard.
Banker Li was also revealed to be the source of HK$350,000 that Tsang’s wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, withdrew from the Bank of East Asia’s headquarters in Central in 2010.
“None of the [payments] was met by the defendant, but by Wong’s company,” Perry said. “He didn’t pay a penny.”
Tsang allegedly made decisions that favoured Wave Media, later renamed Digital Broadcasting Corporation, in which both Wong and Li were shareholders, .
Prosecutors accused Tsang, the highest ranking Hong Kong official ever to be tried under anti-bribery laws, of failing to disclose his relationship with Wong to his cabinet, the Executive Council.
On November 5, 2010, hours after the government announced the grant of a digital radio licence to Wave Media, Tsang, his wife, Wong and Li went to the mainland, the court heard.
While it might have been a coincidence, Perry said, “travel records show the defendant and his wife and David Li travelled back to Hong Kong together”.
Tsang was also accused of favouring the station when Exco allowed Arthur Li Kwok-cheung – David Li’s brother and currently an executive councillor – on the station’s board, despite his previous categorisation as a “disqualified person”.
“[Tsang] wanted a comfortable and large residential property ... suitably luxurious for a retired chief executive of Hong Kong,” the lead prosecutor said.
“It appeared to the outside world as though he was taking decisions impartially. The negotiations for the property [were] conducted without knowledge of ... the people of Hong Kong.”
The former chief executive was also accused of misconduct in public office for concealing his relationship with interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai when he nominated him for an honour without informing the relevant committee that Ho was the one responsible for refurbishment work on the penthouse.
Perry said Ho’s HK$350,000 fees were settled by Wong’s company. “Whether he deserves the honour is irrelevant. You [as chief executive] have to reveal, not deliberately conceal the relationship.”
Additional reporting by Julia Hollingsworth