Donald Tsang

Donald Tsang visited Hong Kong youth centre just once before nominating designer for medal, corruption trial hears

Court told how the former chief executive made a one-off visit two years before recommending Barrie Ho receive a top honour for his contribution to society

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2017, 11:16pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2017, 11:29pm

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen made just one visit to a youth group building before proposing that its interior designer – who also refurbished his retirement home – receive a Medal of Honour, a court heard on Wednesday.

Prosecutors flagging a potential conflict of interest have alleged that Tsang abused the system for his own benefit by nominating Barrie Ho Chow-lai, though Tsang claimed Ho had made a contribution to society.

Tsang and his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, had engaged Ho to carry out “tailor-made” redecoration work – worth HK$3.35 million – at the Shenzhen penthouse between 2011 and 2012, his corruption and misconduct trial has heard.

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The High Court was told on Wednesday that Ho had taken up interior design work on a number of floors at the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Group centre in North Point from 2006 to 2007.

Previously, the court heard that Tsang had personally asked his secretary to put Ho’s name forward under the city’s awards and honours system in early 2011. While Tsang then told relevant government bodies that Ho had made a contribution to the youth group through his design work, he did not tell them about his ties with Ho, the court was told.

The prosecutors claim Tsang abused the system to reward Ho for his work at the penthouse, where Tsang claimed he planned to stay after his retirement in 2012.

Testifying on Wednesday, a coordinator of the youth group, Janice Yuen Siu-ling, revealed that Tsang made his one-off visit two years ahead of Ho’s being nominated for and awarded the medal in 2011.

Yuen said Tsang was invited through uChannel, the group’s online radio platform.

She said he would only have spent time on the ground or first floor of the 14-storey centre. But Tsang, she agreed, had attended the group’s events almost on an annual basis between 2005 and 2011 when he was chief executive.

“But these venues have nothing to do with Barrie Ho?” prosecutor David Perry QC asked.

“Correct,” Yuen confirmed, saying they took place at a university, a hotel and exhibition halls.

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The permanent secretary for development (works) at the time, Wai Chi-sing, said he was not put under any pressure when he processed Ho’s nomination in 2011, according to a statement read out by Perry.

The prosecutors allege that a refurbishment fee of HK$3 million for the Shenzhen flat and a further HK$350,000 design fee paid to Ho were settled by companies controlled by businessman Bill Wong Cho-Chau.

Wong, who owned the penthouse, was also a major shareholder of Wave Media, the court has heard.

It is alleged that Tsang failed to disclose to his Executive Council between 2010 and 2012 his ties with Wong, when the council was granting various applications, including a digital audio broadcasting licence, to Wong’s radio station, which was later known as Digital Broadcasting Corporation, or DBC

Tsang, 72, has denied one count of accepting an advantage as chief executive and two others of misconduct in public office.

Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai told the jury that the trial was likely to end before February 16.