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Leung Chun-ying

Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying sues lawmaker for defamation

Suit relates to comments Kenneth Leung made about a HK$50 million payment the city leader got from engineering firm UGL

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 March, 2017, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2017, 3:41am

Hong Kong’s outgoing leader, Leung Chun-ying, is suing an ­opposition legislator for ­defamation over remarks about a HK$50 million payment that the chief ­executive received from an ­Australian engineering firm.

The Chief Executive’s Office said on Monday that Leung ­’s ­lawyers had filed a writ at the High Court against ­accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung, who confirmed that his lawyers had received the relevant documents.

The pan-democratic politician said the suit would not stop him from continuing with a ­Legislative Council investigation into the payment controversy, but did not comment further.

Lawyer Peter Sit, acting for the chief executive, said only: “Check with the court when it opens ­tomorrow morning.”

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This is the first time a Hong Kong chief executive has sued a legislator for defamation. What lawmakers say in the Legco chamber is protected by parliamentary privilege, but remarks made outside are not.

Last week, Leung Chun-ying threatened to sue the lawmaker, saying he had no basis to allege at a press briefing on Wednesday that overseas tax authorities were investigating the chief executive in relation to the HK$50 million payment from UGL.

The retiring leader said he had never received any inquiries “from any tax ­authority of any place”.

The lawmaker’s allegation, coming ahead of a Legco select committee investigation into the UGL saga and Leung Chun-ying’s expected elevation to a state ­leader’s post, was “a considered and well-prepared strategy to ­discredit” the chief executive, the city leader’s lawyers said.

According to the website of London-based law firm Clifford Chance, for which the legislator works, Kenneth Leung specialises in corporate and international tax planning and is named as one of the Global Top 250 tax advisers in the Tax Directors Handbook.

Pan-democrats, including Kenneth Leung, have demanded that the chief executive not be ­appointed vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political ­Consultative Conference before the Legco inquiry concludes.

Leung Chun-ying received the HK$50 million payout after ­signing a “non-compete and non-poach” agreement with UGL in 2011, back when the ­Australian company bought ­insolvent firm DTZ, of which Leung was a director before running for the city’s ­­top job.

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Leung did not ­declare the payment to the ­Executive Council, later saying there was no conflict of interest.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting earlier filed a complaint to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, urging it to probe the chief ­executive’s deals.

He said he had yet to be ­notified whether the investigation had been dropped.