Mystery benefactor paid hotel bill for Donald Tsang’s bodyguard, bribery trial hears
Government has no record of who paid for the hotel rooms in Barcelona and London
A mystery friend paid Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s bodyguard’s hotel bills while he protected the then chief executive on a private trip to Europe in 2010, Tsang’s bribery trial heard on Tuesday.
The Chief Executive’s Office had no record of who the benefactor was.
Prosecutor David Perry QC told the High Court Tsang went on holiday to Barcelona and London between July 29 and August 7, 2010.
But, he said, the bodyguard, “Mr Wong”, was staying at a hotel that cost more than Tsang’s office would pay for his accommodation. So a friend of Tsang’s covered the bodyguard’s bill, which came to HK$24,092.
Perry said the friend paid for three nights in a standard room at the Hotel Arts Barcelona, which charges HK$2,632 per night, and four nights at The Berkeley, in London, costing HK$4,049 per night.
The cost of the London stay alone, he said, would have been more than 60 per cent over what the bodyguard could claim from the city leader’s office.
“The cost of the accommodation will leave [the bodyguard] out of pocket if he’s not reimbursed,” Perry said.
Prosecution witness Alice Lau Yim, who was permanent secretary to the chief executive during the tenure of Tsang’s successor, Leung Chun-ying, said it was unclear who Tsang’s friend was. It was Lau who had to hand over the records to investigators from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
“There are no such records,” Lau, now permanent sectary for the Financial Services and the Treasury Bureau, said.
Tsang, 72, has denied one count of accepting an advantage as chief executive, between 2010 and 2012. The case centres on a local radio station and a luxury penthouse in Shenzhen, which the former leader planned to live in after retiring.
Prosecutors said it was a “classic case of conflict of interest”, and that their case would shed light on a corrupt relationship between local business and “the very top of” government.
Tsang, who led the city between 2005 and 2012, was accused of accepting at least HK$3.8 million in refurbishment and design fees for the three-storey place and, in return, being “favourably disposed” to Wave Media, the major shareholder of which was Bill Wong Cho-bau.
Wong indirectly owned the penthouse, and allegedly paid for the renovation.
Tsang, prosecutors said, approved Wave Media’s various licence applications between 2010 and 2012, including one for a digital broadcasting licence, when they came before the Executive Council.
On Tuesday, Perry told the jury of nine about Tsang’s European trip, saying that details of the bill payment were in an email written to Tsang’s then permanent secretary, Kenneth Mak Ching-yu, by a member of his staff, Jock Tam.
In the email, Tam said Tsang’s friend would also provide a coach for the party to get around. He said the generosity was “merely a gesture of goodwill” and did not create a conflict of interest or put the office “in an obligating position towards the sponsor”. Mak approved it.
On Tuesday Lau said she had made a list of Tsang’s 19 recorded trips between 2010 and 2011, at the ICAC’s request.
The case continues before Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai on Wednesday.