Husband of under-fire justice secretary Teresa Cheng to be prosecuted in connection with pool he allegedly built without permission
- Buildings Department to take top engineer Otto Poon to court over matter
- His wife was investigated for changes to her home, but cleared after it was decided case would fail
The husband of under-fire Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah will appear in court this month after officials decided to prosecute him for allegedly carrying out building work on his Tuen Mun residence without permission.
Charges against top engineer Otto Poon Lok-to had been expected since last month when David Leung Cheuk-yin, the director of public prosecutions, controversially said Cheng would escape legal action over suspected unauthorised structures at her luxury home, but Poon, whose house is next door to Cheng’s, would face prosecution in connection with a pool on his property.
The structure reportedly measures 2.5 metres wide, by 4.65m long, and is 1.24m deep.
Leung said the justice secretary’s husband would be charged with “knowingly commencing, or carrying out building work, without having first obtained from the Building Authority approval and consent in writing”.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said it would not comment as legal proceedings were ongoing.
On Friday, the Buildings Department said it had issued a summons to the owner of house No 3 in Villa De Mer, where Poon lives. The hearing will take place on Friday, January 18, in Tuen Mun Court.
The city’s top prosecutor said Cheng would not face legal action because there was no reasonable prospect of securing a conviction against her.
Cheng is suspected of making changes to her basement, while adding a rooftop structure and putting up a luxury deck at her Villa De Mer home. She was caught up in the scandal for weeks when she took office earlier this year.
Leung said the Department of Justice had sought independent legal advice from barrister Edwin Choy Wai-bond SC to avoid a conflict of interest in making its decision. It was Choy who concluded that the case would fail.
In its statement outlining the decision, the department said the unauthorised building works at the justice secretary’s house were either built before she bought the property, or the date of construction was unknown.
The scandal, which called Cheng’s integrity into question, broke on January 6 last year – the same day she took office. Media reports revealed that suspected unauthorised building work had been found at the couple’s two neighbouring houses.
One property was owned by Poon and his daughter, Karen Poon Wing-yun, while the other was held by Cheng through a company.
Cheng said previously the suspected unauthorised structures had existed before she bought the house.
As head of the justice department, Cheng had to step aside to allow Leung to determine whether to prosecute, to avoid a conflict of interest.
Aside from the housing controversy, Cheng’s department is under fire for not seeking independent legal advice before deciding not to prosecute former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, over a payment he received from Australian engineering firm UGL.