Donald Tsang

Jury ‘struggling’ to reach majority verdict in Donald Tsang corruption trial

After almost 17 hours of deliberations, nine-member jury sent a memo to the judge on Friday afternoon also asking for clarifications on two points of law

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 February, 2017, 7:07pm

After deliberating for almost 17 hours across two days, the jurors in former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s corruption trial have told the judge they are struggling to reach a majority verdict on the bribery charge.

The former chief executive has been waiting to hear his fate since the jury began deliberations on Thursday morning.

With the end of their second day of deliberations looming, the jury sent the judge another set of questions – the fourth time they have sought clarifications from the judge.

Juries can enter a unanimous verdict or a majority verdict of 7:2 or 8:1, meaning up to two jurors can disagree with the others.

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But in a memo on Friday afternoon, the jurors told Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai they could not reach a decision by majority on the first count, which alleges that Tsang accepted a bribe in the form of HK$3.35 million renovations on a Shenzhen penthouse he planned to live in during his retirement.

The jury also asked the judge for clarification on two other points of law in relation to the first count.

“Now it is only 6.30pm, you still have time to consider your verdict and you still have dinner,” Chan told the nine-member jury.

“Spend a little time to consider the verdict in relation to count one. If, after full discussion, you cannot reach an agreement you must say so – send me a note.”

The jury also asked the judge for legal definitions of bribery and conflict of interest – but the judge said there was none.

He asked the jurors to focus their attention on the accepting an advantage offence, which did not require them to have a legal definition of either terms.

If the jury is unable to reach a decision on Friday, they will spend another night in the High Court accommodation.

The city’s former leader, 72, has been on trial since January for two counts of misconduct in public office and one count of a chief executive accepting an advantage. He denies both charges.

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He is accused of deliberately concealing from the Executive Council his ties with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau over a three-storey penthouse in Shenzhen during the period when the council approved various applications, including one for a digital audio broadcasting licence for radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.

The penthouse, Tsang and his lawyers suggested, was rented from Wong’s company at a market rate of 800,000 yuan (HK$903,000). But the prosecutor argued the money was for a secret deal to buy the flat at an undervalued price, or for a “licence to occupy” the flat for as long as he wanted.

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

Tsang is further accused of putting forward interior designer Barrie Ho Chow-lai for an honour under the city’s awards system without revealing to relevant ­government bodies that Ho was engaged in the design work for the penthouse.