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Hong Kong MTR

Sha Tin-Central rail link inquiry: senior manager of main contractor dismisses claims of corruption at his company on MTR job

  • Malcolm Plummer, project director of main contractor Leighton, denies he ever admitted corruption to whistle-blower
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 9:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 4:21pm

Corruption claims about the main contractor at the centre of a construction scandal involving the city’s most expensive rail project were “completely fabricated”, a senior manager at the company said on Thursday.

Malcolm Plummer, project director at Leighton Contractors (Asia), strongly dismissed the allegations as he testified at the commission of inquiry into shoddy work on the expanded Hung Hom station of the HK$97.1 billion (US$12.3 billion) Sha Tin-Central link.

Leighton is embroiled in allegations that steel bars were cut short to fake proper installation into couplers on the station platform, and that supporting diaphragm walls were changed without authorisation.

Giving evidence from Perth, Australia via a video feed, Plummer admitted that the firm sometimes hired daywork labour to perform work that did not fall under the remit of sub-contractors.

However, when asked if Leighton would hire direct labour to fix botched work of sub-contractors, he said he was not aware of any such arrangement at the site.

But inquiry chairman Michael Hartmann, a former non-permanent judge on Hong Kong’s top court, asked Plummer if he had ever come across any suspected acts of corruption involved in his projects over the past 30 years in his engineering career.

“You are aware that corruption has crept into these proceedings. Corruption by way of cutting corners for backhanders and things like that,” Hartmann said.

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“Over the years have you ever investigated the possibility of such corruption occurring on projects in which you have been involved?” he asked. “No,” Plummer replied.

However, the chairman pursued, asking Plummer if he had spoken in private with whistle-blower Jason Poon Chuk-hung about corruption in Leighton projects.

Poon is the managing director of subcontractor China Technology Corporation, which was hired by Leighton to do concreting work at the expanded station in 2015 and 2016.

Poon earlier alleged that during the private talk with Plummer, he confessed to corruption within Leighton and asked Poon to “take care of himself” when hearing that Poon rejected such offers.

However, Plummer denied the such a conversation with Poon ever took place.

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“My response is it’s completely false … Various witness statements by Poon about corruption and my confessing, … and all this sort of thing, are completely fabricated. Nothing like this ever occurred,” he said. “I don’t really see how it could happen,” he added.

In his witness statement to the commission, Plummer said he had only become aware of the bar-cutting scandal very recently. He admitted that, from September to December 2015, there were occasions where a small number of defective rebars were identified by the staff of his firm and the MTR Corporation. But, as far as he could recall, the problems were already rectified.

“I wasn’t aware of any [rebar cuttings] until this year,” he said.