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Donald Tsang

Jury sent away to decide fate of former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang

Verdict on three charges faced by ex-chief executive expected soon

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 10:50am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 11:43am

Members of the jury holding the fate of former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen in their hands were sent away on Thursday to decide whether he was the protagonist of “a story of greed”.

This dismissal at the High Court in Admiralty means a verdict could come anytime soon.

The jury members, comprising eight women and a man, will be locked in a jury room, where they will discuss what they have heard during the trial over the past six weeks before returning a verdict on each of the three charges faced by Tsang.

Key points in misconduct trial of former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang

Before retiring the jury, Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai said: “Each of you has taken an oath or affirmation to return a true verdict according to the evidence. This is a responsibility that you must now fulfil.

The judge told them to utilise their experience and wisdom to try to reach an unanimous verdict, or if not, at least a majority verdict of seven to two.

The jury was ordered to be sent out at 10.47am.

Sporting his trademark bow tie, Tsang had earlier greeted journalists with a smile when he entered the court with his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, on Thursday morning.

Before the hearing, he was paid a surprise visit by former lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, a founding member of the Civic Party. Tsang waved back through the glass from the conference room he has been using with his legal team.

“I hope he gets through this,” Eu, a senior counsel who happened to be in the court building on her own business, told the media.

When reporters passed her regards later, Tsang replied before he left court: “You’re all very kind.”

He will be called back to court when the jury reaches a verdict.

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

The case centred on a three-storey penthouse in Shenzhen, which Tsang intended to call his temporary home upon stepping down as chief executive in 2012.

A ‘story of greed’ or simply a mistake? How Donald Tsang went from planning his retirement to fighting corruption charges

The penthouse at Shenzhen’s East Pacific Garden was owned by businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau’s companies, which also paid for the property’s HK$3.35 million refurbishment fee, the prosecutor alleged.

The prosecution also claimed that Tsang deliberately concealed his ties with Wong over the penthouse from the Executive Council at a time when the council was approving radio station Wave Media’s application for a digital audio broadcasting licence. Wong was a shareholder of the company.

Although Tsang made a payment of 800,000 yuan (HK$903,000) to Wong’s company – which the defence said was rent at the market rate – the prosecutor argued it was part of a secret deal to purchase the property at an undervalued price, or for a “licence to occupy” the flat for as long as he wanted.

Tsang was also accused of putting forward interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai’s name for an award, without disclosing to relevant government bodies that Ho was engaged in the design work for the penthouse.

In his closing speech, prosecutor David Perry QC described Tsang’s conduct as “a story of greed”, in which the top official used “secrecy, concealment and disguise” to gain personal benefit while he was in office.

From city leader to defendant in the dock: a timeline of the Donald Tsang case

Meanwhile, defence counsel Clare Montgomery QC urged the jury not to succumb to the prosecutor’s cynical assumption that all politicians lie, saying that Tsang’s failure to make a declaration would at most be an error of judgment, not a criminal offence.

She also called the prosecution’s case, which relied on a number of inferences, as “nothing more than an invitation to speculate”.

When the judge began to sum up the case for the jury members on Tuesday, he reminded them that they were adjudicating for a court of law, not a court of morals.

“You must not speculate about what evidence there might have been or allow yourselves to be drawn into speculation,” he told them.