Tin Tin couple cleared, now seek millions

Louis Won

THE Legal Department could face a multi-million dollar bill from former Legislative Councillor Ho Sai-chu and his wife after their acquittal in the District Court yesterday.

Judge Moylan said the prosecution had failed to prove beyond doubt that Mr Ho, 54, and Ms Ko Tse-ha, 47, had conspired to defraud a company which had at that time owned the publishing rights to the Tin Tin Daily News.

''The case for the Crown seemed to have been shifting like a boat dragging its anchor from bay to bay,'' the judge said, adding that no application was made to amend the charge.

Of the seven particulars in the single charge, the judge found some of them ''so opaque'' that it was not known what was meant.

Judge Moylan will hear arguments on November 29 for the trial costs of Mr Ho and Ms Ko, and for solicitor Stephane Hui Bon-hoa, 40, and accountant Larry Ng Lit-fai, 37, who were both acquitted a fortnight ago.

Mr Ho and Ms Ko, who are both company directors, had been on trial for more than 60 days. Neither gave evidence in their defence.

The courtroom was packed with the couple's relatives and friends, who rushed forward to hug and shake hands following the acquittal.

Judge Moylan did not hold the couple in suspense, telling them as soon as he sat down that the Crown had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

Mr Ho heaved a sigh of relief while Ms Ko, who was unsure what the judge had said, leaned towards her husband for assurance.

Outside the court, Mr Ho said the past few months had been very difficult but he praised the territory's legal system, stressing that ''it always forces out the truth''.

He vowed to return to public life and has not ruled out running for the 1995 Legislative Council elections.

He said he would resume his public service, which he had not had time to pursue while he was involved in the legal battle.

When asked whether he had been approached by any political parties, Mr Ho sidestepped the question by saying: ''I have a lot of friends.'' But Mr Ho said he would resume his work on the Provisional Airport Authority, Labour Advisory Board, Transport Advisory Committee and others public bodies.

''I'll start going through all the documents which I didn't have time to read and will attend their meetings and see what I can contribute,'' he said.

''I'm sure I'll continue my public service, unless the Government no longer wants to appoint me.'' Mr Ho said he was not worried that his public image had been damaged by the trial.

''People can see the court's verdict and what I've been doing, but I don't care what people say about me,'' he said.

Mr Ho said he and his wife felt happy that they were found not guilty, saying: ''I'm glad we still have justice in the rule of law in Hong Kong.'' Mr Ho and Ms Ko were accused of conspiracy to defraud Tin Tin Yat Pao (International) Limited (TTIL) between January 1987 and June 1990.

The charge related to their alleged dishonest wresting of control of TTIL and their subsequent allegedly dishonest dealings with its assets. The current publisher is Tin Tin Publication Development Limited.

The Crown's case was that in January 1987, the couple appointed themselves as directors of TTIL. It was claimed the appointment was invalid as it was not made in accordance with the Articles of Association of the company.

With a 25 per cent shareholding, they used the company as a vehicle through which $3.1 million was misappropriated, the Crown alleged.