Resignation of Hong Kong graft-buster kept secret, report reveals

Ricky Yau tells how he controversially quit four days into top job only to change his mind after plea from colleagues

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2016, 11:44pm

The No 2 at the Independent Commission Against Corruption tendered his resignation just four days after he took over from his demoted yet well-respected ­predecessor.

In this month’s edition of ICAC Post , the official publication of the graft-buster, Ricky Yau Shu-chun reveals his resignation was also kept an internal secret for nearly three weeks until it was ­announced in late July.

However Yau changed his mind within hours of the announcement and agreed to stay on as ­acting head of operations, the organisation’s powerful investigative arm.

Where to now for the ICAC?

His account raises further questions about his relationship with the ICAC commissioner, ­Simon Peh Yun-lu.

Although Peh had all along asked him to stay on, Yau said he changed his mind only after a lengthy discussion with Operations Department colleagues.

The ICAC is facing unprecedented pressure as newly elected lawmakers vow to investigate its handling of predecessor Rebecca Li Bo-lan, who stepped down after being demoted.

Her departure came amid an ongoing ICAC probe into HK$50 million received by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying from Australian engineering company UGL in 2012-2013.

Pan-democrats believe Leung was involved in the removal of Li, an accusation that both Leung and Peh have denied.

In ICAC Post, Yau admits ­questions by the public about him succeeding Li were behind his ­initial decision to resign, which for the first time he said occurred only four days after starting the job on July 7.

“I was of the view that if I took up the post, the Operations Department would be subject to even more public queries, and the credibility of [the ICAC] would be further undermined,” he said. “I made a verbal application to the commissioner for an early resolution of agreement on July 11, and tendered a written application to him the following day.”

That shows his resignation was much earlier than was reported in a July 29 ICAC press release.

Explaining why he finally agreed to stay on, he said he was persuaded by department ­colleagues – a subtle refusal to acknowledge the role of Peh.

Turmoil at ICAC after principal investigator becomes second departure in days from Hong Kong graft-buster

Yau said he met colleagues earlier on July 29 and they expressed fears his departure would deal a severe blow to the ICAC and further shake public confidence.

“Having considered such a genuine plea from my colleagues and the overall interest of the commission, I decided to withdraw my [resignation],” he said.

Newly elected lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC investigator, would not speculate if the ICAC decision to disclose such internal details was a move to pre-empt any action in the legislature.

But he noted: “This shows Peh was unsuccessful in retaining Yau, whose final decision to stay was purely based on support of his department colleagues.”

On Tuesday, Peh sent a letter to 23 pan-democrat lawmakers saying linking the removal of Li to the Leung controversy was ­“irresponsible rumour-mongering” that amounted to “slandering his personal integrity”.

He also said it was an “accusation that is very serious but without real evidence”, which hurt the reputation of Hong Kong.