Donald Tsang

Judge in Donald Tsang bribery trial tells jury to decide case on facts – not emotions

Jurors reminded to ‘keep sympathy out of your consideration’ as they prepare for deliberations

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 6:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 2:33pm

Any prejudicial feelings towards Donald Tsang Yam-kuen must be cast aside when deciding whether the former Hong Kong leader is guilty of accepting a bribe, a High Court judge told jurors on Tuesday.

Five men and four women were also told to remember they were not adjudicating a “court of morality” as they received instructions from High Court judge Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai.

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The nine were expected to determine the fate of Tsang, the second former chief executive to face charges in the High Court, when they begin deliberations on Thursday.

Tsang, 73, has denied one count of accepting an advantage between 2010 and 2012 as the chief executive over a free renovation he accepted for a retirement penthouse on the mainland. In return, the prosecutors said, he became “favourably disposed” to a local radio broadcaster Wave Media.

He could face a maximum seven years in prison if found guilty.

Directing the jury, Chan said not to be influenced by any feelings towards the charge of bribery or the defendant, who led Hong Kong between 2005 and 2012.

“Keep sympathy out of your consideration,” he said. “Keep antipathy out of your consideration.”

The justice also reminded the jury that they should only focus on the facts of the case as they pertain to the law.

“This is not a court of morality that is concerned with moral and shameful behaviour.”

Jurors were also reminded not to be influenced by information from outside the courtroom, including “newspapers or media or any sort of gossip that reaches your ears”.

Do not, he said, turn to the internet for research.

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Tsang is accused of accepting a HK$3.8 million (US$487,000) renovation for a penthouse in Shenzhen, where he planned to spend part of his retirement. The prosecutors said, in return, he became Wave Media’s friend in government. The renovation was paid for by the broadcaster’s majority shareholder Bill Wong Cho-bau, who also owned the penthouse.

The prosecution presented other bribery allegations against Tsang involving other shareholders of the radio station, although he was not charged in relation to those accusations. One such accusation involved Bank of East Asia chairman David Li, who was said to have given HK$350,000 to Tsang.

Chan reminded the jury that Tsang did not face charges related to those incidents, which were used by the prosecution to provide background to the charge of accepting an advantage.

“You must not use these allegations to his detriment,” Chan said.

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When addressing the cost of the renovation, Chan said a price tag of HK$3.8 million appeared to be “in excess” even if – as Tsang’s lawyers suggested – the refurbishment was covered by the 800,000 yuan (HK$938,000) yearly rent Tsang had paid Wong.

The defence contested that Tsang had made at least one payment. But Chan said even if Tsang stayed there for three years, the three payments would still be short of the renovation bill. Yet, he said, it was for the jury to make up their own mind.

Chan stressed that the law provided no defence for Tsang to excuse accepting any advantage by claiming he had no power, or did not intend, to do what was asked of him.

It was also unnecessary for prosecutors to demonstrate that Tsang had actually given Wave Media preferential treatment as long as they could prove “something” could be provided within the range and scope of the duty of the chief executive.

Jury instruction was expected to continue on Wednesday.