Teresa Cheng

Hong Kong justice chief Teresa Cheng avoids prosecution again over illegal structures

  • Buildings Department says three units with problematic structures ‘had been corrected’
PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 6:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 December, 2018, 8:54pm

Hong Kong’s scandal-hit justice chief will not face prosecution over three more properties she owns, which – like her home – included illegal structures.

The Buildings Department said the three units belonging to Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah – two flats in Repulse Bay and Sha Tin, and an industrial unit in Fo Tan – “had been corrected”, according to reports.

That came after prosecutors announced last week they would only charge Cheng’s engineer husband over suspected unauthorised structures at their luxury homes in Tuen Mun.

On Sunday night, the department confirmed more unauthorised building works had been found in three locations, all owned by Cheng. But they were all removed by April this year, so the department did not consider launching any legal action.

Top Hong Kong officials who were caught out over illegal structures

Land Registry records showed that Cheng bought a 2,000 sq ft flat in Sea Cliff Mansions, on Repulse Bay Road, last September for HK$62 million (US$8 million) and HK$2.64 million.

The Post visited the flat early this year and found at least one suspected illegal alteration on its balcony railings. Cheng herself admitted there were at least three illegal structures on the property.

Last Friday, director of public prosecutions David Leung Cheuk-yin announced Cheng would not face legal action over suspected unauthorised structures including a basement, a rooftop structure and a garden deck at her luxury home in Villa De Mer, Tuen Mun, because there was no reasonable prospect of securing a conviction against her.

Instead, Cheng's husband Otto Poon Lok-to will be charged with “knowingly commencing or carrying out building work” without permission.

Cheng was caught up in the scandal for weeks when she took office in January this year, when media reports revealed the suspected unauthorised works at the couple’s two neighbouring houses at Villa de Mer. One property was owned by Poon and his daughter, Karen Poon Wing-yun. Cheng held the other through a company.

Inspectors from the department later confirmed 10 illegal additions had been found at the couple’s houses. But Cheng insisted the structures were there when she bought the three-storey property in 2008.

The department said in a statement it neither gave Cheng special treatment because of her status nor acted against the Buildings Ordinance when deciding whether criminal investigations were necessary.

“In fact, the department has processed cases with unauthorised building works with similar conditions. If the department were to initiate criminal investigations into the justice chief’s properties in Sha Tin and Repulse Bay, it would deviate from the general principle, causing unfairness,” it said.