An ex-company chairman who is on trial for conspiracy to defraud, involving HK$72 million, made yet another bid to stay the proceedings.
Hon Ming-kong, the former chairman of China Sciences Conservational Power, applied for a judicial review of the trial judge's refusal to recall witnesses.
The latest move in the trial, which has been running for three years, came after Hon's lawyers (who include at least five senior counsels and one Queen's Counsel from Britain) made a series of applications to adjourn the trial.
On Wednesday, Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi in the District Court refused an application by Hon's lawyers to recall eight prosecution witnesses on the grounds that Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) officers might have coached them and thereby denied their client a fair trial.
Prosecutor John Dunn earlier argued the application was groundless and was purely a delaying tactic.
Hon's lawyers, in a writ filed in the Court of First Instance on Friday, sought an order to quash Chan's decision, arguing that the judge was wrong. Chan commented on Wednesday that it was the third anniversary of the trial's opening.
If the Court of First Instance grants leave to hear the application, it will operate as a stay of proceedings, the writ says. (The course of the trial will then depend on the outcome of the judicial review.)
In July 2009, Hon's lawyers applied for an adjournment to take evidence from 11 mainland witnesses via mutual assistance between the Hong Kong government and the mainland government, but those witnesses did not give evidence before a judge on the mainland.
Six months later, in January last year, the judge refused to further adjourn the case to resolve the matter.
From the commencement of the trial in April 2008 to July 2009, it had already been adjourned a number of times, the writ says.
In March last year, Hon's counsel Clare Montgomery QC applied for disclosure of materials. In August last year, she applied to abort the trial on the basis of unfairness because the Hong Kong government had failed to secure assistance from the mainland government. Chan rejected both applications in April and September last year, respectively.
Meanwhile, three ICAC officers in a separate case were arrested and charged with allegedly coaching witnesses. The three officers allegedly induced former warrants trader Cheung Ching-ho in late 2009 to give false evidence in a trial.
Last December Hon's lawyer Po Wing-kay asked the judge to hear arguments on whether the prosecution should disclose materials over the coaching issue as the arrested officers were also involved in Hon's case.
Chan refused and ordered parties to make closing submissions on February 7 this year. But on February 7, Hon's counsel Alexander King SC sought an adjournment, because he was new to the trial.
The judge granted the adjournment to April 4. But instead of carrying the trial forward, King applied to recall prosecution witnesses as the arrested officers might have coached them. He argued the application was well-founded because the prosecution of the ICAC officers only came to light after the prosecution in Hon's case had closed.
Taking it slowly
Hon Ming-kong has at least five senior counsels and one QC for his trial that, so far, has lasted this number of years: 3