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Donald Tsang

Former minister under Donald Tsang tells Hong Kong court there was no undue influence when issuing radio licences

Prosecution alleges transactions were made to pay company which ran Shenzhen penthouse, but defence says these conversions were ‘normal’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 6:14pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 11:22pm

A former minister in charge of broadcasting was never put under undue influence to grant the radio licences at the centre of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s corruption trial, the High Court heard yesterday.

But taking the stand yesterday against her ex-boss, who is accused of failing to declare interest, former secretary for commerce and economic development Rita Lau Ng Wai-lan stressed that when such matters arose, she would expect those involved to make the necessary declarations, as the public expect government officials to act in good faith.

Lau was asked to give her account of an AM radio licence and a digital audio broadcasting licence granted to Wave Media between 2008 and 2010 when she headed the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.

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Tsang, 72, is accused of concealing ties with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau between 2010 and 2012, when the Executive Council he presided over granted the digital licence to Wave Media, of which Wong was a major shareholder. Tsang is accused of keeping his cabinet in the dark about his negotiations with Wong to rent a three-storey Shenzhen penthouse after he retired in 2012.

The penthouse was not only owned by one of Wong’s companies, but its HK$3 million “tailor-made” refurbishment, for Tsang and his wife, was all paid for by companies the radio boss owned, the prosecution said.

Tsang has denied two counts of misconduct in public office and one of accepting advantage as chief executive, an offence introduced during his term in office.

When prompted by prosecutor David Perry QC yesterday, Lau told the court her bureau had granted all radio licences, including the ones for Wave Media, in accordance with the rules at the time. She said they were also granted in line with the digital audio broadcasting service policies her bureau helped formulate from 2009 to 2010.

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“You were not subject to any undue influence by any persons?” the prosecutor asked.

“No,” she replied.

Under cross-examination by Clare Montgomery QC, Lau agreed she never felt the government had compelled Wave Media to resort to bribery regarding a separate AM licence bid in 2008.

Earlier, prosecutors alleged that in the months leading to Wave Media receiving its digital licence in 2010, Tsang and his wife made 36 conversions from Hong Kong dollars to Chinese yuan to “prepare” 800,000 yuan for Wong’s company in November that year. The amount matched an apparent lease in 2012 for the Shenzhen penthouse.

But yesterday, the defence counsel suggested that Tsang’s wife showed a “pattern” of converting dollars to yuan because of the mainland currency’s rising value against the dollar between 2010 and 2012.

Montgomery shared a rare glimpse into the couple’s financial situation in 2010: The Tsangs had HK$25 million to HK$35 million in a joint BEA account in 2010, while Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei held another HK$25 million in a separate personal BEA account.