Family settles in ICAC's bid for officer's millions

The family members of a deceased police sergeant who allegedly accumulated a fortune through corruption have settled a $140 million claim filed against them by the ICAC, the biggest settlement in the anti-graft authority's history.

In a statement yesterday, the ICAC said the Department of Justice, which represented it in the matter, had reached an out-of-court settlement with the family of the late Hon Sum earlier this month. The family agreed to relinquish $140 million worth of assets, mostly properties in Kowloon.

The compromise brings an end to a six-year-legal battle over the estate of one of Hong Kong's most infamous police officers. The Independent Commission Against Corruption began civil proceedings against Hon's family over his frozen assets in March 30, 2000 - seven months after he died in Taipei.

Sources said the ICAC had reached a confidentiality agreement with the family that meant it would not make public any details of the settlement, which has been under negotiation since 2000.

Former ICAC deputy director of operations Alex Tsui Ka-kit, one of the investigators in Hon's case, described the settlement as 'sensible and reasonable'.

In a telephone interview with the South China Morning Post yesterday, Mr Tsui said: 'The man [Hon] is no longer here. But the case has dragged on and on for so many years, with so much time and effort having been put into it. It is about time it came to an end. The settlement is also a relief for the members of his family, who have been under a lot of pressure.'

He said he was not concerned that the anti-graft busters would now resort to out-of-court settlements in other cases because Hon's case was 'very exceptional'.

Currently, 22 police officers are still being sought by the ICAC.

When Hon retired from the Royal Hong Kong Police in August 1971 he controlled 49 properties then worth $2.12 million, had $1.24 million in investments, $703,000 in bank accounts, and two Mercedes-Benz cars worth $78,911. He accumulated this fortune despite earning only a total of $193,852 in wages between 1940 and 1971.

In its writ filed in July 2000 seeking to recover Hon's assets, the Department of Justice said: 'The assets were disproportionate to and could not be explained or accounted for by his official emoluments, awards or allowances.'

Legislator James To Kun-sun, chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, welcomed the settlement. 'There are always risks that the government may lose the civil proceedings and not get a penny if the legal battle continues.'

Shortly after his retirement, Hon, also known as Hon Kwing-shum, moved to Canada, from where he fled after a bid to extradite him to Hong Kong was filed in May 1977. He died in Taipei in August 1999. The government filed its writ seeking to recover assets from Hon's estate in July 2000.

Hon's son, Hon Kam-wing, wife Wan Lin, younger sister Hon Yuet-ngor, and concubines Kan Suk-ying and Lau Miu-yuk sought to oppose the government's action on the grounds it had lapsed under the statute of limitations.