Filing corruption complaints in a high-profile way only serves to tip-off any potential subject of the inquiry so they can destroy the evidence, a senior officer with the graft-buster said yesterday.
The officer said such complaints politicised the commission and he doubted their sincerity. "If a person knows that he is the subject of an investigation, he will surely destroy any incriminating evidence before the [Independent Commission Against Corruption officers] arrive," the officer said.
"It is difficult enough to investigate corruption complaints. Letting the subjects of a complaint know in advance they are going to be investigated will make it even more difficult [for us] to investigate … What I don't know is how sincere they are in making the complaint," he said.
Speaking at a media reception, Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said it was increasingly common for reporters to find out about the content of a complaint before the ICAC did.
"There have been times when reporters have gathered outside the ICAC headquarters before a complainant arrived and that person was interviewed. We didn't know what the complaint was about until the complainant eventually filed it," he said.
Another senior officer said some high-profile informants were getting around a law barring people from disclosing details of ICAC probes once a complaint has been made by talking to the media before they filed it. He said: "It's easy to damage a person's reputation by telling the media he is going to be the subject of an investigation. But the spirit of the ordinance is to protect people's reputation until the complaint against them is substantiated. It's difficult to undo the harm done to a reputation."
Under the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance it is an offence for a person to disclose, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, details of an ICAC investigation, including the identity of the person under investigation. This does not include complaints filed under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance.
Meanwhile, a complaint has been lodged with ICAC after fresh evidence emerged that former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen did not pay for a luxury yacht trip to Macau with tycoons while in office, revealed last year. A Marine Department probe concluded last week that there was no evidence Tsang had paid for the yacht trip, despite Tsang's claim that he did.