A lawyer for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had tried to prevent a newspaper article alleging that Hong Kong’s top official received secret payments from an Australian engineering firm from being published, Next Media magazine reported Friday.
The lawyer issued a letter dated Oct. 7 to Fairfax Media Ltd., publisher of The Age newspaper which carried the article, denying that Leung committed any wrongdoing.
In the letter, the lawyer said the writer of the story, journalist John Garnaut, intended either expressly or implicitly to allege that Leung had been involved in accepting bribes or secret commissions from UGL Ltd.
The “unfounded allegations”, if published, carried defamatory imputations that would damage Leung’s reputation and defame him as “a corrupt public official”, “unethical” and “dishonest”, the letter said.
In addition, comparing Leung’s transaction with UGL to the high-profile graft case involving former chief secretary Rafael Hui was “totally wrong” and “entirely unjustified”, the lawyer said.
The lawyer asked Fairfax Media to confirm its decision not to publish the article with “unfounded and libelous allegation” before 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Nonetheless, Fairfax Media decided to run the article on Wednesday. It reported Leung received US$7 million in secret payments from UGL after he became Hong Kong chief executive.
It said the payments were made under a 2011 contract when Leung was a private citizen.
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