The stockbroker at the centre of Hong Kong's costliest and most controversial insider-dealing tribunal hearings has escaped being hit with a HK$40 million legal bill after the Court of Appeal ruled it was against the appearance of fairness. Yesterday's decision overturned Mr Justice Brian Keith's ruling that the tribunal, which was criticised for conducting 'secret meetings', would reconvene to determine if Felix Wong Sin-hua would pay the 75 days of legal costs. The tribunal was set up under the Securities (Insider Dealing) Ordinance to investigate dealings in the shares of CNPC (Hong Kong), formerly Paragon Holdings, between March and May 1993. However, the tribunal never completed its task of calculating the profits gained as a result of the alleged insider-dealing despite sitting from February 1996 to June 1997, when it delivered its report to the financial secretary. Events took a twist when the spotlight was turned from the accused to the tribunal after two defendants, Dato Tan Leung In and Tan Fo King, sought a judicial review of the hearings. Mr Justice Raymond Sears ruled in March 1998 that the tribunal's findings be quashed and never made public after private meetings between the tribunal and its counsel were uncovered. It was also discovered that evidence had been taken behind closed doors. Some of the evidence taken improperly concerned Wong. A stinging attack was aimed at chairman Mr Justice David Yam Yee-kwan for conducting justice behind closed doors and flouting the 'fundamental cornerstone' of open justice. Mr Justice Sears described the episode as 'a troublesome case which has given me personal discomfort which, in the 12 years I have been sitting in Hong Kong, I have never experienced'. His decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal in January 1999. Counsel for Wong, Gerard McCoy, SC, told the Court of Appeal his client was appealing against the decision of Mr Justice Keith Rogers in December 2000 that the testimony given in the botched inquiry was uncontaminated and could be used by the tribunal as a basis for a costs application. He said Mr Justice Keith was wrong when he concluded: 'Where the springs of justice became polluted was after that evidence had been given and in the course of that testimony being evaluated.' Mr Justice Anthony Rogers agreed with Mr McCoy stating Mr Justice Keith's approach had been 'wholly unrealistic'. 'The appearance of fairness cannot be maintained if a tribunal, which has been so heavily criticised for the manner in which it went about its primary task, were to attempt to adjudicate on the merits of an application, consequential on the result of the primary task, made by a party who has been a subject of the unfair treatment,' he said. He also said it was unfair for Wong to wait for the outcome of further costs inquiries. He ordered the tribunal's decision be quashed and costs be awarded in favour of Wong.