It was lawful for a corporate inspector to pass information obtained during a company probe into one of Hong Kong's biggest fraud cases to police before the matter came to court, a prosecutor argued yesterday. The Court of Final Appeal heard that information obtained during the probe into the Allied Group property empire should, as a rule, be kept confidential. But Michael Thomas, SC, for the Government, said this did not apply where the matter led to a criminal prosecution. The Government is challenging a Court of First Instance ruling by Mr Justice Pang Kin-kee last July that halted the commercial fraud trial involving Allied Group former chairman Lee Ming-tee, 59, and ex-finance director Ronald Tse Chu-fai, 48. The pair were accused of a fraud conspiracy concerning the placement of shares in the early 1990s, allegedly involving about $673 million. They were charged in 1998, five years after the Government published the inspector's report. Mr Justice Pang had criticised the way that material obtained in the investigation, empowered by the Companies Ordinance, was given to the police and the prosecution. Mr Thomas argued yesterday that the Companies Ordinance did not forbid an inspector from passing the information to police or prosecutors. 'One of the purposes of the statute is to uncover fraud. Either the financial secretary or the inspector can report to the police if a crime is uncovered . . . everything is open to the inspector unless it is expressly forbidden,' he said. Mr Thomas was addressing concerns that subjects of company probes were compelled to answer questions, unlike suspects in criminal proceedings. He said that answers obtained from the inquiry were 'cats out of the bag' and could be used in a criminal trial. 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.