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Donald Tsang

Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang says court fees for bribery trial ‘unjust and unreasonable’

Tsang has been told to cover a third of the legal costs from the trial, estimated at around HK$4 million

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 November, 2017, 10:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 17 November, 2017, 11:15pm

Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has sought to tear up the multimillion dollar-bill imposed on him by prosecutors in his bribery trial.

Tsang’s legal team dismissed the cost application made by the prosecution as “unjust and unreasonable”, according to a court filing submitted last week and made available to the media on Friday.

The prosecution demanded Tsang cover a third of the legal costs from the first trial – estimated at around HK$4 million, according to a lawyer who spoke to the Post – incurred when he was convicted of misconduct in February, saying he had “given no assistance whatsoever” to investigators from the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Despite a change in strategy, prosecutors come up short again in former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang’s bribery trial

Prosecutors alleged that Tsang “was a party to the production of documents that were misleading on their face (and which he made no attempt to explain or clarify)”.

There was no basis to rebut the “powerful suspicions” surrounding Tsang’s behaviour, prosecutors said.

The cost request followed two hung juries in the space of nine months over whether Tsang, 73, should be convicted of a charge claiming he showed favour to a radio station whose boss was offering him a free, custom refurbishment, worth HK$3.8 million, for a three-storey penthouse in Shenzhen.

But the defence team, led by Selwyn Yu SC, dismissed the arguments for cost.

“That the defendant had initially promised to cooperate with the ICAC but subsequently withdrew that promise simply placed the ICAC in the same position as a defendant who never indicated any promise,” the defence document said.

“In all cases, there is no duty upon the defendant to assist in the investigation of the ICAC.”

The prosecution asserted it was not their position to deprive Tsang of his right to remain silent.

The judge will reach a decision on the burden of cost later.

The former top official, who led Hong Kong between 2005 and 2012 has been accused of accepting at least HK$3.8 million in refurbishment and design fees for a three-storey penthouse in Shenzhen and in return becoming “favourably disposed” to a local radio station.

The penthouse was indirectly owned by businessman Billy Wong Cho-bau, the major shareholder of the broadcaster in question, Wave Media. Prosecutors said Wong paid for the renovation.

Legacy tainted even if Tsang is innocent

Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in prison in February after being found guilty of misconduct in public office by deliberately concealing his negotiations over the penthouse between 2010 and 2012. That was when he approved various applications, including a digital audio broadcasting licence, for radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a shareholder.

The former top official has been out on bail since April pending an appeal against the conviction.

Tsang had also denied one count of accepting an advantage as the chief executive during the last two years of his tenure. A split decision on the bribery charge during the first hearing prompted the government to seek a second trial, which also ended in a hung jury.

The prosecution, led by David Perry QC, announced last week that, after “careful and deliberate thought”, it decided to leave the bribery charge against Tsang on file at the High Court.

While Perry stopped short of saying they were dropping the case, that was the effect as it meant the prosecution was handing control over to the court.