Convicted TVB figure Stephen Chan just ‘moonlighting’, judges told in final appeal against bribery charge
Twice remitted case centres on cash pocketed without knowledge of station eight years ago
A paid performance by former TVB manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan on a co-organised show was akin to “moonlighting” and not a case of corruption, defence lawyers argued in their final appeal at the city’s top court on Tuesday.
The case involves a countdown programme co-produced by the station at Olympian City on December 31, 2009. Chan hosted his popular Be My Guest show and was paid HK$160,000 by the mall – part of which was pocketed by his assistant Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun – without notifying TVB.
Both men were convicted of conspiracy for an agent to accept an advantage and fined – HK$84,000 for Chan and HK$28,000 for Tseng – in December 2015, after the case was twice remitted between the District Court and the Court of Appeal.
The pair were twice acquitted, only to see court action again after the prosecution countered with its own appeals.
At the heart of the latest appeal was the intent required to warrant a conviction, and the approach that a court should adopt in considering the defence of a reasonable excuse.
Joseph Tse Wah-yuen SC argued the incident did not involve a corrupt transaction as it was only an offence if it was proven that the bribe undermined TVB’s affairs and business, and that Chan was aware of this when he accepted the money.
He said Chan did not act with dishonesty when he accepted the payment because he had reasonable belief that he did not have to seek the permission of his bosses.
Tseng’s lawyer David Perry QC further argued the offence was about disloyalty. He said: “This is a classic case of moonlighting that should not be stigmatised as corrupt,” adding it did not involve a conflict of interests. “There was no betrayal of TVB,” he said.
But Jonathan Caplan QC, for the secretary for justice, stressed that Chan was pocketing a secret commission from a third party without his employer’s knowledge – despite strict TVB policy banning such conduct.
He noted that it was the nature of the act performed for a reward that mattered, and a declaration should be made even if Chan was acting in TVB’s interests.
Prosecutors invited the Court of Final Appeal to substitute the men’s present convictions with two alternative charges on file if it was not convinced they had proven beyond reasonable doubt, the bribery charges.
The five judges reserved their ruling. They are Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro, Mr Justice Robert Tang Ching, Mr Justice Joseph Fok, Mr Justice Frank Stock and Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe.