Consider probe into HK$50 million UGL deal before naming CY Leung as state leader, Hong Kong advisers urge
Concern arises from possibility that Leung’s dealings with UGL may lead to a criminal case
Hong Kong advisers warned state leaders in Beijing that if Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying were to be appointed vice-chairman of China’s top advisory body, then the probe into a HK$50 million payment received by Leung “must be considered”, the Post has learnt.
The revelation came after the standing committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) discussed and approved Leung’s appointment as a delegate on Tuesday, with sources saying he would be appointed vice-chairman in two weeks.
On Tuesday, delegate Lo Man-tuen said a few fellow delegates had expressed concern over an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into a HK$50 million deal between Leung and Australian firm UGL.
“They asked if there would be a problem … but the vast majority agree that it is suitable for Leung to take up the post as a delegate,” Lo told the media on Tuesday.
An insider with knowledge of the discussion, who asked to remain anonymous, said that while delegates approved of Leung’s appointment as a member, taking up the vice-chairman role in the body was another matter.
“A delegate started the discussion about UGL and others responded, so the discussion about Leung’s membership on Tuesday morning was quite lengthy,” the source said.
“The message was that many support Leung’s membership, but the ICAC investigation must be considered if he were to be named a vice-chairman.”
Their concerns arose from the possibility that Leung’s dealings with UGL could lead to a criminal case. CPPCC vice-chairmen are not exempt from investigations or prosecution by an anti-graft watchdog.
Former CPPCC vice-chairman Su Rong was investigated for bribery a year after his appointment to the senior leadership position in March 2013.
In January this year, he was given life imprisonment for taking bribes of more than 116 million yuan (HK$131 million).
Leung’s decision not to declare his deal with the engineering firm is still under probe. He received part of the HK$50 million sum after becoming chief executive in 2012.
But Leung said he had formally resigned from the director’s post at insolvent property firm DTZ on November 24, 2011, and was no longer one when he signed a “non-compete and non-poach” agreement with UGL, which bought DTZ, in early December that year.
The DTZ management, including then chairman Tim Melville-Ross, had been “fully aware” of his agreement with UGL, Leung said.
The source added: “A delegate also questioned if it is logical for Leung to step down voluntarily from the CPPCC standing committee before taking office as chief executive in 2012, and become the body’s vice-chairman while he’s the city’s incumbent leader.”
Another source also told the Post that delegates had questioned the urgency of making Leung a vice-chairman.
CPPCC vice-chairmen are mainly tasked to help the chairman carry out his work, participate in meetings attended by the body’s chairman and vice-chairmen, and deal with key matters before the body’s standing committee.
The 21 vice-chairmen include former Macau chief executive Edmund Ho Hau-wah and Hong Kong’s first chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.
The Post understands that Leung is likely to be nominated as a CPPCC vice-chairman on March 12 at a meeting chaired by state leader Yu Zhengsheng. The nomination will then be put to the vote at the closing ceremony of the CPPCC’s annual session the next day.
The first source declined to say how many of about 200 Hong Kong delegates would cast a ballot against Leung’s vice-chairmanship, but he added that it was unlikely to be voted down because there were more than 2,000 delegates from around the country.
Leung said on Tuesday that being both the city’s top official and a state leader would not hinder his administration of local affairs, adding that there was “no relationship” between his decision not to seek a second term as chief executive and his possible appointment as a state leader.
Meanwhile, 26 pan-democrat lawmakers in Hong Kong wrote a joint letter to Yu, asking him not to appoint Leung a vice-chairman because the chief executive was still being investigated by the ICAC.
Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam