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Donald Tsang

Donald Tsang would not have thrown away his reputation, Hong Kong High Court told

Comments made by defence counsel Clare Montgomery; judge in corruption and misconduct trial will sum up on Tuesday before jurors consider their verdict

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 8:44pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 2:40am

Former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen would not have thrown away his reputation from a “glittering” 45-year career in public service by seeking an advantage “at the end of his life”, his defence counsel told the High Court in her closing submission.

Wrapping up her final submission on Friday, defence counsel Clare Montgomery QC reminded the jury that current chief executive aspirant Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor called Tsang her “role model” when she testified in court.

“To ally yourself in that way with a man who is sitting in a criminal dock is not something that is a light statement,” the counsel said, referring to Lam, who served as the development minister in Tsang’s administration.

Donald Tsang ‘hopelessly compromised’ chief executive duty, court hears

Montgomery opted to use the last words of her three-day closing speech to remind the jury that this was more than just a corruption and misconduct case.

“You’ve got here a 72-year-old man, his service to Hong Kong is over. After five years he is in your hands,” she said.

“All we ask of you, all we request you do is that you serve Hong Kong as you promised,”added the British barrister, making her last appeal to the jury to rule only according to facts and evidence, not speculation.

She also took care to portray Tsang as a “straightforward man” who cared about other people, rather than the two-faced, greedy schemer that the prosecution spoke about.

“We don’t suggest he’s perfect, he doesn’t suggest he’s perfect. It is a minor error of judgement at worst.”

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

The prosecutors alleged Tsang deliberately concealed his negotiations over a three-storey Shenzhen penthouse with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau, when Tsang and his then Executive Council approved various applications, including a digital broadcasting licence, to radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.

It is also alleged that refurbishment of the 6,700 sq ft penthouse at a cost of HK$3 million and a design fee of HK$350,000, paid to interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai, were all paid by Wong’s company.

Tsang is further accused of proposing that Ho be nominated for a medal of honour, without telling relevant government bodies that Ho was engaged in giving his penthouse what the prosecutors said was a “luxury” and “tailor-made” design.

On Friday, Montgomery reiterated that there was no reason for Wave Media to “grease the wheel” by offering Tsang a bribe because the licence it wanted was deliberated on with due process and in the public interest.

Prosecutors said secrecy was the “badge of corruption”, but the defence counsel appealed to the jury of eight women and one man to pause at that suggestion.

“Real secrecy means that the only people who know what’s going on are the person paying the bribe and the person receiving the bribe,” she said.

She argued that in Tsang’s case, some of his staff, bank tellers and designers were “fully in the loop”, noting that some of the meetings between Tsang’s wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, and Ho took place at Government House, Tsang’s former residence which had security measures in place.

She also criticised the prosecutors for going “too far” in suggesting that by not declaring his interest, Tsang was awarding Ho for the private work the designer had done for him. If he had indeed made a declaration, which he was not obliged to make, Montgomery suggested, it might be worse as his subordinates might think it was an attempt by him to exert pressure.

The charge Tsang was facing that holds a chief executive accountable for bribery was established under Tsang’s administration, she said. “So he could go to prison if he accepts an advantage,” she said.

Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai told jurors to return on Tuesday, when he is expected to sum up the case before they are sent out to deliberate.

The jury may need to stay overnight at the High Court if their deliberations take longer than a day, prompting Chan to remind the jury to bring their own underwear as their personal belongings would be a lot more comfortable than the underwear provided by the judiciary.