‘Long Hair’ Leung Kwok-hung’s cash from Jimmy Lai was a party donation, ally tells court
Pro-democracy lawmaker accused of concealing a personal payment from the Legislative Council
The quarter of a million dollars from media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying that lawmaker “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung was accused of hiding from the Legislative Council was a donation for his party’s branch operations in the New Territories, his chairman told a court on Tuesday.
But League of Social Democrats chairman Avery Ng Man-yuen admitted to prosecutors that the amount was “invisible” to other party members and even the party treasurer, with only five core members of the leadership informed about such a “sensitive matter”.
Ng was testifying for his party lawmaker, who is embroiled in a misconduct trial.
Leung, a veteran pro-democracy legislator, is accused of failing to declare a donation from Lai – who founded Next Media, which publishes Next Magazine and Apple Daily – between May 2012 and June last year.
Leung, 61, has pleaded not guilty to one count of misconduct in public office.
At issue was whether the HK$250,000 put into his personal bank account on May 22, 2012 was meant for him or his party, which is not obliged to declare donations.
The District Court previously heard Lai gave HK$9.5 million to four political parties in 2012. Leung’s party received its HK$1 million donation in three cashier’s orders. The party got HK$500,000, with the remainder equally shared between Leung and former party chairman Andrew To Kwan-hang.
On Tuesday, Ng revealed that that donation made a total of HK$2.5 million received by the party. But members had been told the sum was only HK$2 million.
Ng disagreed with suggestions of the HK$250,000 being a “mysterious” payment given to Leung in his capacity as a lawmaker.
He said he learned about the donation as early as March, and later discussed with other core members – including To and Leung – how the money would be used. Others were kept in the dark due to the sensitivity of donations, he said, given that most donors prefer secrecy.
“It’s common practice that sensitive matters would only be discussed among core members,” Ng told judge Alex Lee Wan-tang.
He said parts of the donation eventually went to the personal accounts of Leung and To because they were in charge of the party’s branch offices, which have their own, separate bank accounts. And Leung, as then chairman, was entitled to receive donations on the party’s behalf and make his own financial decisions without reporting back, as long as he is “responsible for the party”, he said.
Ng further admitted to prosecutors that he “never considered” if it would be safer to avoid depositing party funds into Leung’s personal account, given he was also a lawmaker.
“You were not worried?” the judge asked.
“I wasn’t,” the witness replied.
The trial will hear closing submissions on Friday.