Donald Tsang

Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang lodges appeal against order to pay HK$4.6 million court costs 

Tsang and his lawyers argue the bill for legal costs was ‘neither just nor reasonable’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2018, 6:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2018, 3:10pm

Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has lodged an appeal against a court order for him to pay HK$4.6 million in legal costs, calling it “neither just nor reasonable”. 

The appeal was aimed at controversial comments made earlier this month by High Court judge Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai, who criticised a public relations stunt aimed at impressing jurors during one of the trials. 

The judge’s finding – which involved famous individuals sitting in areas reserved for Tsang’s family – was “irrelevant” and “unwarranted”, Tsang’s lawyers argued. 

“The findings were made without any evidential basis,” they said in a legal document the Post obtained, stating the grounds of appeal.

The challenge was lodged at the High Court on Tuesday.

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The prosecutors argued Tsang’s attitude had caused delays and since he was found guilty of one of three charges he faced in the first trial in February last year, he should foot the bill for one-third of the HK$14.6 million legal costs. 

Chan ruled Tsang’s uncooperative behaviour had required extra time and manpower and agreed to the special circumstance, saying it was “based on the totally unnecessary costs the taxpayer had to pay”.

But Tsang and his lawyers argued the judge had erred in deciding those were exceptional circumstances.

During the two trials, the main allegation against Tsang was that he was involved in negotiations over a three-storey penthouse in mainland China, which belonged to a company chaired by businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau. But at the same time, Tsang was also handling license applications from radio station Wave Media, of which Wong was a majority shareholder.

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His failure to disclose the deal landed him a conviction of misconduct in public office, while he was acquitted of a bribery charge in the first trial in February 2017. A second bribery charge – accusing him of accepting free refurbishment for the property from Wong’s company – was, however, left hanging by a hung jury.

There was a retrial between September and November for that charge, but another jury also failed to reach a verdict.

In his judgment on the legal fees, Chan said that during the second trial, celebrated individuals such as former secretary for justice Wong Yan-lung and ex-financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah were arranged to appear in court in support of Tsang to impress the jury. 

Both refuted the claims while the city’s barristers body, the Bar Association, also said there was no such evidence.

Hong Kong judge orders former city leader Donald Tsang to pay HK$4.6 million in court costs

Tsang and his lawyers argued Chan was wrong to take that into consideration and that the main thrust of the trial had been the corruption charge the jury had failed to return a verdict on. 

Being convicted of the misconduct charge did not necessarily amount to one-third of the legal costs. they said.

Tsang, who is on bail from the 20 months’ jail sentence imposed on him over the misconduct conviction, is set to return to the appeal court on April 25 in a bid to clear his name. He is going to be represented by British Queen’s Counsel Clare Montgomery and local gun Peter Duncan SC.