Donald Tsang

Top banker gave Donald Tsang’s wife cash, court told

Prosecutor says David Li, a shareholder in radio station seeking licence, gave HK$350,000 as part payment for a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 10:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 11:53pm

Prosecutors told a high-profile corruption trial on Thursday that Hong Kong’s former leader, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, had received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Bank of East Asia chairman David Li Kwok-po, which was used to help pay for a luxury mainland penthouse at the centre of his case.

The high-profile banker entered the picture on the second day of the prosecutors’ opening speech, as top barristers for the Department of Justice continued their efforts to connect the dots for a panel of nine jurors at the High Court.

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The trial centres on a corrupt deal that Tsang allegedly made with a local radio station and its owners.

Li, the prosecutors noted, was a shareholder and director of Wave Media, the broadcaster in question.

Tsang, who led the city from 2005 to 2012, has denied one count of accepting an advantage between 2010 and 2012 as the chief executive.

The 72-year-old former leader is accused of receiving at least HK$3.8 million in refurbishment and design fees for the renovation of a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen he planned to retire in after he stepped down as chief executive.

The prosecutors said it was a reward for Tsang to become “favourably disposed” to Wave Media, of which the major shareholder was Bill Wong Cho-bau, the owner of the penthouse through his mainland company.

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Tsang allegedly approved Wave Media’s various applications, including a digital broadcasting licence, when he headed the city’s top advisory body, the Executive Council.

Continuing his speech on Thursday, prosecutor David Perry QC said although details of the arrangement emerged in 2012, when Tsang told the press that he had yet to reach an agreement on renting the Shenzhen penthouse, the court should look into the matter two years before that to get the full story.

He said on the morning of July 16, 2010 – when Exco was still considering whether to grant the digital radio licence – Tsang’s wife had turned up at the Bank of East Asia branch on Des Voeux Road.

“She was given HK$350,000 in cash, not a cheque, not a bank transfer,” Perry said.

“It came from David Li, the man, who ... just so happened to be the director of Wave Media, who just so happened to be a friend of Wong Cho-bau.”

He alleged that the money, which Tsang never disclosed, went on to form part of the 800,000 yuan (HK$940,000) his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei, paid to Wong’s Shenzhen East Pacific Group months later in November. The group owned the penthouse.

“It’s a purchase,” he said, describing it as an “under-the-table deal” at an “undervalued price”.

Perry argued that it could not have been a rental payment because the Tsangs would not be paying rent in 2010, two years before they were supposed to move in.

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The prosecutor also said around the time Selina Tsang instructed her bank to make the payment on November 5, she, Wong and Li were all on the mainland, according to immigration records.

On another occasion, Tsang and his wife went to spend their Easter holiday at the Regency Hotel in Shantou, just days after the digital licence was granted to Wave Media on March 22, 2011.

Subsequently, Tsang wrote a letter to thank a “Wong Shun-yuen”, who Perry said was linked to Wong Cho-bau and a signatory of a bank account belonging to East Pacific Holdings, another of the mainland businessman’s companies.

Both the Tsangs and Wong were on the mainland at the time as well.

“That’s all how it fits together,” Perry said.

During Tsang’s tenure presiding over Exco, Perry said, he had made a total of 69 declarations for a long list of matters, but made no mention of the Shenzhen penthouse and his connection with Wong.

The prosecutor also reminded the jury that he did not have to pinpoint specific returns of favours, as long as he could show Tsang had become “favourably disposed” after receiving the “sweeteners”.

After all, he said, corruption crept around in secrecy with an insidious nature.

The case continues before Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai on Friday.