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Carrie Lam

Graft-buster drops probe into incoming leader Carrie Lam’s role in HK$3.5 billion Palace Museum deal

Lawmaker Claudia Mo, who lodged report against Lam in January, says Independent Commission Against Corruption told her it had found no misconduct in public office

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 9:27am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2017, 9:27am

Hong Kong’s graft-buster has dropped its investigation into incoming leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s role in a contentious deal with Beijing officials to build a local version of the Palace Museum, according to the legislator who filed a complaint against her.

Lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching, who lodged a report about Lam with the Independent Commission Against Corruption in January, said she was “a bit disappointed” by the news.

Lam will be sworn in as chief executive next week. The controversy erupted last December when Lam, then the city’s chief secretary and chairwoman of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority board, announced a surprise HK$3.5 billion deal with Beijing to create a Hong Kong version of Beijing’s Palace Museum.

Critics questioned the lack of a public consultation for the project, which would be fully funded by the Jockey Club and would not require the Legislative Council’s approval.

The controversy deepened after the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority confirmed it had asked prominent architect Rocco Yim Sen-kee to assess whether the site could “accommodate a multi-purpose venue and museum” months before its board approved the museum plan and chose Yim as its design consultant.

Mo said in March that the ICAC had launched an investigation into her complaint made in January. But on Thursday, she said the anti-graft watchdog had informed her that it had found no misconduct in public office in the approval of the museum project without consulting the public.

The officer who spoke to Mo also told her the commission had found no problems with other issues, which Mo said referred to the hiring of Yim without conducting a proper tender exercise.

An ICAC spokesman said on Thursday that it would not comment on individual incidents. The spokesman added that all investigations would be reported to the independent Operations Review Committee. No investigation will be concluded without its endorsement.

Mo said that the closing of the investigation “seems like a celebration of Lam’s inauguration [on July 1]”, though she added: “I will still tend to trust in the ICAC’s investigation.”

She said a judicial review on the issue was still in process, and she would wait and see how it concluded.