Demand for repayment of air tickets questioned

Lawmakers yesterday questioned how the government could require former Court of Appeal judge Michael Wong Kin-chow to repay HK$171, 666 reimbursed him for air travel if his receipts were in order. The government asked for repayment because the air tickets were a gift to Mr Wong.

Members of the Legislative Council's administration of justice and legal services panel asked a Justice Department official whether the receipts Mr Wong submitted had been authentic.

Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said the government's decision to get Mr Wong to repay the sum had cast doubt on the authenticity of the documents he submitted as claims. 'If the documents are genuine, why isn't he entitled to reimbursements?' she asked.

The Frontier's Emily Lau Wai-hing also asked whether the government had tightened its policy for reimbursement, since Mr Wong's case had exposed problems with the application procedure.

Law officer Ian Wingfield said there was no evidence Mr Wong had been dishonest in applying for the reimbursement.

Both the invoices and receipts submitted by Mr Wong were genuine, he said. That was why the government had decided not to reduce the pension of the former judge, lawmakers were told.

Mr Wingfield said the department had decided to ask Mr Wong to pay back the money because the ex-judge was not in a position to claim reimbursement for payments he had not made himself.

In question were Mr Wong's claims for first-class tickets to mainland China, Europe and the United States in 1998, 2000 and 2001. In 2003, he reportedly said the tickets were a gift from his daughter's then boyfriend, tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung.

Judiciary administrator Emma Lau Yiu-wah said legal advice indicated there were insufficient grounds to take action against Mr Wong under the Pension Benefits Ordinance.