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Donald Tsang

Don’t convict Donald Tsang based on his unpopularity or the assumption that all politicians lie, Hong Kong court told

In closing submission, defence lawyer Clare Montgomery rejects prosecutor’s claim that former chief executive’s case was a ‘story of greed’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 5:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 February, 2017, 11:27pm

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen might be imperfect, but he should not be convicted because he was unpopular and based on the assumption that all politicians lie, his lawyer told a High Court jury in her closing submission on Wednesday.

Defence counsel Clare Montgomery QC also accused the prosecution of building its case on “nothing more than an invitation to speculate” and by linking isolated incidents.

Rebutting the prosecutor’s suggestion that Tsang’s case was a “story of greed”, she told the eight women and one man on the jury that they were not only brought in to judge Tsang, a once powerful figure, but those who brought him to court.

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“You also judge the powerful forces that bring prosecution, the power of the state,” she said, reminding the jury that it was their duty to prevent a conviction based on a powerful figure’s unpopularity.

“You are to hold both of them accountable,” she said, offering a glimpse into Tsang’s defence for the first time as the former chief executive had opted not to testify.

Tsang, 72, has denied two counts of misconduct in public office and one of a chief executive accepting an advantage between 2010 and 2012.

The prosecution said Tsang was negotiating with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau over a three-storey, 6,700 sq ft luxury apartment in Shenzhen at the same time that the Executive Council he chaired approved a broadcasting licence for Wave Media, of which Wong was a majority shareholder. It is alleged he deliberately concealed his dealings with Wong from the council.

Tsang is also accused of failing to disclose his relationship with designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai, who Tsang put forward for an award without revealing to relevant government bodies that Ho was redecorating the Shenzhen property to his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei’s specifications.

The HK$3 million refurbishment and a design fee of HK$350,000 paid to Ho were all paid for by Wong’s companies, the prosecutor said.

Montgomery said the jury should not be “weak and fearful” in feeling that it had to rule in favour of the prosecution.

“It’s not part of your job to just adopt the cynical approach of the prosecution with their reference to collusion, with the assumption that all politicians lie, with the presumption that any businessman in Hong Kong would immediately pay a bribe to get a friend in the government,” she said.

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She urged the jury to rule only on the evidence it was given, attacking the prosecution for building its case on “nothing more than an invitation to speculate” and by linking isolated incidents.

She said contrary to the prosecution suggestion that it was corrupt for Tsang to be involved in the Shenzhen penthouse and Wave Media at the same time, he was “bound to be” looking at mainland properties because he and his wife were looking for a place to stay after his retirement.

She also said there was no motive for Tsang to be bribed because all the parties involved in granting the licence to Wave Media agreed to it on the grounds that it was in the public interest.

Earlier, the court heard that Tsang and his wife allegedly prepared a payment of 800,000 yuan (HK$902,000) by converting Hong Kong dollars into mainland currency and paid it to Wong’s company in November 2010.

Prosecutor David Perry QC suggested for the first time on Wednesday that it might be the sum to purchase the penthouse at an undervalued price.

Montgomery said the couple’s attempt to convert currency had nothing to do with paying Wong, but was their investment. She said the couple had been converting money both before and after the period the prosecutor stated.

She continues her closing submission before Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai on Thursday.