Lai See

Still no word on politically sensitive court cases

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 2:51am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 December, 2013, 8:54am

It's time for our quarterly review of those, shall we say, "sensitive" legal cases. The cases we are referring to include Citic Pacific, which faces allegations that it defrauded at least three banks in obtaining HK$1.75 billion in loans. The Securities and Futures Commission completed its investigation into this in 2010 and handed it over to the Department of Justice. There have since been a number of court hearings relating to documents seized by police. But charges have yet to be laid, much to the dismay of the SFC. There is also the matter of the investigation into the uncompleted sale of flats at Henderson Land Development's luxury project at 39 Conduit Road in 2009.

The last time we wrote about this issue, we said these cases were sitting in the in-tray of the then director of public prosecutions, Kevin Zervos. He swiftly chewed our head off for this, writing in June: "I am very concerned by the false impression the article has portrayed of me and the office. These files are not sitting in my in-tray." He added: "The Citic case has been the subject of extensive legal proceedings, with the involvement of outside senior counsel and in-house counsel, and [the] investigation is being advised upon by the case counsel." As for the 39 Conduit Road case, Zervos said: "The Henderson Land case has been completed and legal advice has been submitted on it."

That was almost six months ago and still there has been no announcement about these cases as to when they might go to court. Indeed, it's taken such a long time that people are beginning to wonder if they ever will go to court. People are also wondering why the Independent Commission Against Corruption is taking so long to make up its mind as to whether to prosecute former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen over his alleged schmoozing with tycoons.

There may be good reasons for these delays. But it would be useful in allaying concerns over foot-dragging if the authorities gave an explanation. We are repeatedly told that the rule of law is one of Hong Kong's greatest strengths, but the delays are undermining that view.


No comment on hirings

We read with interest the piece in The New York Times over the weekend saying that federal authorities had obtained confidential documents that shed new light on JP Morgan Chase's decision to hire the children of China's ruling elite.

The documents, according to the piece, show a more explicit link between hirings and business deals. This approach to hiring did not always go down well with JP Morgan's employees and it says that a whistle-blower made a complaint to the Hong Kong stock exchange in April 2011 about this practice.

So we asked the exchange if it had received such a complaint. "We can't comment on newspaper reports. We don't comment on what reports we receive," a spokesman said. But he did volunteer the information that complaints about brokers and sponsors were the responsibility of the SFC. But our question there received the same response.

The chief executive of the exchange, Charles Li Xiaojia, was chairman of JP Morgan China from 2003-09, but we are not suggesting this is the reason for the muted responses from these two bodies.


Ageism worse than sexism

News that UBS is looking to hire more than two dozen senior advisory bankers or "grey hairs" is good for those in that zone. It is, however, not expected to extend to Asia-Pacific despite a shortage of finance professionals.

Ageism appears particularly prevalent in the industry. Indeed, it is more prevalent than sexism, according to a Financial Times survey. The survey found that more than one-third of finance professionals in London felt that while their bosses were committed to gender diversity, fewer than a quarter felt the company was similarly committed to fighting age discrimination.

A survey of the accounting profession in Britain found that almost half the people in the industry found it difficult to find a new job or get promotion after the age of 40.

The website efinancialcareers says in Asia-Pacific there are few signs of employers considering older candidates, despite shortages of bankers and other finance people in areas such as wealth management, private banking, risk and compliance, among others.


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