Donald Tsang and wife’s HK$61 million in bank assets revealed at Hong Kong bribery trial
Barrister for ex-leader discloses holdings to argue former first lady’s buying of foreign currencies was ‘regular habit’
Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and his wife have accumulated HK$61 million in bank assets, the High Court heard on Friday, as the former Hong Kong leader battles a bribery charge.
The holdings were revealed by Tsang’s lawyers to fend off an allegation of impropriety advanced by prosecutors, who finished summoning witnesses against the former top official.
Tsang’s barrister, Derek Chan, told the High Court that while a joint Bank of East Asia account in the names of Tsang and his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei tallied HK$36 million (US$4.6m) in total assets, a different account at the bank maintained solely by her held HK$25 million.
Donald Tsang’s wife deposited HK$350,000 cash just after bank chairman withdrew same amount, trial hears
The amounts were from July 2010 – about a year and a half before Tsang’s conduct drew intense media scrutiny, the court heard.
Chan said the assets comprised a range of investments, including Chinese currency and bonds.
The disclosure followed an accusation levelled against Tsang that he had converted Hong Kong dollars into Chinese yuan. Prosecutors claimed the transactions laid the groundwork for an 800,000 yuan (HK$942,450) payment to a Hong Kong firm owned by businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau, accused of offering the former chief executive a deal sweetener.
Prosecutors argued the sum was intended for the undervalued purchase of a three-storey penthouse on the mainland indirectly owned by Wong, whom the court heard had footed Tsang’s refurbishment bill for the penthouse as a form of advantage.
The court heard earlier that on 36 occasions in 2010 – between July 16 and September 3 – the Tsangs converted money to prepare for the payment, which was made in November.
On Friday, Tsang’s barrister Chan said the former leader’s wife had a “regular habit” of buying currencies, including Chinese yuan, and that the practice started even before July 2010.
“I believe so,” Bank of East Asia senior manager Ho Yiu-keung replied under cross-examination when asked whether the habit was regular. Ho was tasked with serving the couple.
Tsang, 73, has denied one count of accepting an advantage between 2010 and 2012 as the city’s chief executive.
He is accused of accepting refurbishment totalling HK$3.8 million. He intended to call the penthouse, located in Shenzhen, his temporary retirement house.
The prosecutor said, in return, Tsang became “favourably disposed” to a local radio station, Wave Media, which Wong owned.
Meanwhile, the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s director of investigation specialising in the government sector was also called as a witness.
Ricky Yu Chun-cheong took part in the investigation of Tsang and said he found a receipt from 2010 showing the Tsangs had paid 800,000 yuan to rent the penthouse.
But Yu noted the actual corresponding payment had never been found.
The case continues before Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai on Monday.