The Government yesterday mounted a final effort to put two former executives of the Allied Group property empire back on trial over what the prosecution branded 'a startling commercial fraud' committed more than a decade ago. Former group chairman Lee Ming-tee, 59, and ex-finance director Ronald Tse Chu-fai, 48, were freed last July when Mr Justice Pang Kin-kee ordered the Court of First Instance case permanently halted. The pair had been accused of a fraud conspiracy concerning the placement of millions of shares in the early 1990s, allegedly involving about $673 million. They were charged in 1998. The case was prevented from proceeding to trial as Mr Justice Pang found the authorities had abused their powers and prejudiced the case in the course of a high-profile inquiry into the group under the Companies Ordinance. Michael Thomas SC, for the Government, argued in the Court of Final Appeal yesterday that the judge's ruling was erroneous and should be set aside. 'If a stay of proceedings can be ordered on some irregularities, how can the court investigate the fact? . . . Is the court going to concern itself with executive decisions not directly relevant to the court case but historic, long before court proceedings start?' asked Mr Thomas. He argued the publication of an abridged report at the end of the company inquiry in 1993 did not prevent the pair from having a fair trial. 'There were anxious discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of publishing the report . . . and the financial secretary [then Hamish Macleod] decided to publish an abridged report for public interest. 'There was no deliberate attempt to harm any individual [by publishing the report],' Mr Thomas said. He also argued that media coverage at that time would not prejudice a present jury due to the 'ephemeral nature' of press reports. As financial secretary, Sir Hamish appointed accountant Nicholas Allen as the inspector to start a probe into the group in 1992. Mr Allen gathered evidence using extensive powers under the Companies Ordinance. The investigation cost $46 million and the Government decided to publish a 688-page version of the inspector's report in September 1993. Mr Justice Pang had described the move as 'a deliberate violation of the defendants' rights to a fair trial' in order to justify the hefty bill incurred. The Court of Final Appeal hearing continues before Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi, Mr Justice Roberto Ribeiro, Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary and Sir Anthony Mason.