Controversial Hong Kong businessman Lew Mon-hung faces court hurdle in bid to clear name

Judges rule more reasons needed before they decide whether he can challenge conviction for perverting course of justice

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 5:18pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 March, 2017, 5:18pm

The bid by controversial Hong Kong businessman Lew Mon-hung to clear his name hit a snag on Thursday after a court ruled it would need to hear more reasons before deciding whether he could challenge his conviction for perverting the course of justice.

All three judges of the Court of Appeal found that the one-time staunch ally of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had failed to elaborate on his arguments for his grounds for appeal.

But they did not reject the appeal application outright, telling Lew, who had walked free from Stanley Prison on Monday, to submit a written testimony to the court to explain how he could substantiate his defence.

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Joseph Tse Wah-yuen SC, representing Lew, told the judges that his client had as many as six grounds for appeal, including an alleged error by a lower court in finding that the businessman had performed acts “tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice”.

The District Court previously heard that Lew had sent two letters and two emails containing threats to Leung and Simon Peh Yun-lu, head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, following his arrest in relation to a fraud case in 2013.

Tse argued that neither Leung nor Peh was empowered by law to intervene in the graft-buster’s investigations, and therefore the correspondence could not have been “tending” to affect the operations.

“The prosecution did not adduce at trial any evidence that the chief executive and the ICAC commissioner had the power to halt the investigations,” the lawyer said.

Mr Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor said the issue concerning the chief executive’s power could have a profound impact on law enforcement in the city. “Detailed legal analysis is required,” he said.

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Court of Appeal vice-president Wally Yeung Chun-kuen also called the absence of in-depth discussions on the issue at the present hearing “undesirable”.

The court adjourned its decision on Lew’s appeal application and told the businessman and prosecutors to hand in written submissions within the next two months.

Lew was sentenced to 18 months in jail in February last year for trying to halt a probe into the fraud case. The former Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference member had his prison term cut short by six months for good behaviour.

Lew turned from a firm supporter of Leung to a vocal critic after the two fell out. In January 2013, the businessman accused the city’s leader of lying about illegal extensions at his home on the Peak, and of breaking a promise to appoint Lew to the Executive Council in return for his support during the chief executive election campaign.