CY Leung UGL payment saga

Hong Kong leader CY Leung accused of meddling in probe set up to investigate HK$50m payout

Proposal in document by pro-establishment lawmaker to change scope of inquiry into the chief executive is traced to the user names ‘CEO-CE’

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 May, 2017, 8:45pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 May, 2017, 1:05pm

Opposition pan-democrat lawmakers have accused Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying of interfering with a Legislative Council probe into a HK$50 million payment he received from an Australian firm before he became Hong Kong’s leader.

They suspect a proposal set out in a document by pro-establishment lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding to change the scope of the investigation originated from Leung’s office.

Chow, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, admitted on Monday that Leung had approached him and commented on the paper. Both men stopped short of confirming the origin of the changes, but Leung said he had a “need and the right to raise my views with the committee”.

Leung received the money in 2011 after engineering firm UGL had bought insolvent property company DTZ, of which he was a director. The deal stipulated that in exchange, Leung would not form or join a rival firm.

Leung did not declare the payment to the Executive Council and later said there was no conflict of interest. But a group of pan-democrat lawmakers was not convinced and formed a select committee in November last year to investigate the payment.

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At the panel’s closed-door meeting on Monday, lawmakers said the chief executive or his ­office could be behind the amended version of the document as the changes had been traced to the user names “CEO-CE”.

A source , speaking on condition of anonymity, understood the Legco secretariat made the discovery and alerted lawmakers. Another source noted that Chow had also said the paper was open to the public and anyone could comment.

Faced with a barrage of media questions, Chow refused to talk about the changes after the meeting. “[Our] closed-door meetings have not finished. I will obey the rule and not comment at this stage,” he said.

According to a copy of the document emailed to lawmakers on April 26, “CEO-CE” had made a series of changes on the night of April 21. It originally stated that the panel should probe “whether Mr Leung and UGL signed and/or executed the agreement”. But “CEO-CE” added that it should also cover “the authenticity and completeness of the document of the agreement as publicised by Australian media”.

After the phrase “are the terms in UGL’s agreement still valid after Leung took office as chief executive”, “and after UGL finished acquiring DTZ” was inserted.

In a joint statement, 22 pan-democrat lawmakers said Leung “has no right to interfere with the Legco panel’s discussion”. They also urged Chow to quit the panel.

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said if Leung had any opinion on the probe, “the proper way was for him to contact the secretariat ... not to do it underhanded through a member of the committee and try to influence him”.

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Kwok suggested further investigation was needed to determine if misconduct of public office was involved – for instance, if Leung had offered benefits to Chow or the DAB during his term.

Hui Chi-fung of the Democratic Party said he planned to report the case to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Tuesday.

Speaking in Beijing on Monday, Leung challenged Legco to expand the scope of the study, as it would last until June next year.

“Since we have plenty of time, why don’t we include all the questions that have been asked so far, and not just the ones limited to the draft scope of study?”

He dismissed accusations that there was a conflict of interest for him as the subject of investigation to direct the panel what to investigate.

“As the subject of investigation, I have the need and the right to raise my views with the committee,” he said.