Judge jails ICAC officer who made threats to witness

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 April, 2003, 12:00am

The anti-graft investigator lied in a fraud trial to hide that he pressurised suspect

An anti-graft officer was jailed for nine months yesterday for lying in a fraud trial to conceal the fact that he had threatened a suspect to co-operate with a probe by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Deputy Judge Andrew Ma Hon-cheung told Lau Wai-tim, an assistant ICAC investigator, that a deterrent sentence was called for due to the serious nature of the offence.

Lau, 38, was found guilty of perjury in the District Court. He and fellow assistant investigator Chung Wai-man, 33, were cleared of a charge of intending to pervert the course of justice. Mr Chung was only charged with the latter.

Judge Ma found that the two officers had induced and threatened Hung Hin-shun, 49, when interviewing him at his Fanling home on October 14, 1999.

Mr Hung, who was charged with conspiracy to defraud but was acquitted in September 2001 in the District Court, secretly taped part of the 30-minute conversation. The tape revealed that the two officers pressured and misled him to disclose information about a corruption complaint over a housing project. However, Judge Ma said he had to clear the two officers of the perversion of justice charge as the prosecution had failed to prove that in threatening Mr Hung they intended to prejudice his fraud trial. In Mr Hung's fraud trial in September 2001, Lau had denied having a conversation with Mr Hung at his home.

Judge Ma said Lau had deliberately lied to conceal his 'grossly improper act'. 'It is very sad for this court to have found the defendant, being a law enforcement agent and officer in charge of the case, deliberately lied ... apparently to conceal his own improper act,' the judge said.

Barrister Paul Loughran said Lau, who joined the ICAC in 1991, was driven to the crime because he was too keen to try to impress his superior.

He urged the judge to take into account that Lau, who formerly worked as an immigration officer and as a policeman, had not derived any direct personal gain.

The lawyer said there were also no ICAC guidelines on how junior officers should handle witnesses when inviting them for interview.

In an official reply last night, an ICAC spokeswoman said the anti-graft body would consider reinstating the acquitted Mr Chung. 'The ICAC attaches great importance to staff professionalism and conduct, and regularly reviews its work procedures and internal guidelines with a view to maintain a high standard,' she said.