Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying’s controversial deal with Australian engineering firm UGL involves entities in Japan and Singapore, in addition to Hong Kong, UK and Australia, Apple Daily reported Monday.
A copy of the UGL contract revealed that Leung still holds stake in DTZ Japan, whose client list includes HKR International Ltd. (0480.HK) and Parkway Pantai Ltd., the report said.
Parkway Pantai, a medical company based in Singapore, has acquired a land plot in Hong Kong’s Wong Chuk Hang area for a new private hospital project.
HKR International, meanwhile, is owned by Payson Cha, who is also a major shareholder in Asia Television Ltd.
The relationship has prompted speculation of conflict of interest, with the government having rejected a bid by Hong Kong Television Network Ltd. (HKTN) to obtain a free-to-air TV broadcast license.
Confidential Executive Council meeting minutes suggested that Gregory So, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, had recommended in principle that HKTN be awarded a broadcast license, but Leung was not in favor, the report said.
DTZ Japan was appointed as the valuation agency for HKR International for five consecutive years since 2009, with the latest deal involving the purchase of a 13-storey office building in Shinjuku, Japan.
Leung has come under fire after it was revealed that he had agreed to a US$6.4 million payment as part of a non-compete deal several months before he took office as Hong Kong’s chief executive. The deal was negotiated after UGL acquired DTZ Holdings, the company for which Leung had worked earlier.
Critics have raised questions as to whether Leung declared his shareholdings in DTZ Japan and also if it was disclosed that a company owned by an ATV major shareholder was one of DTZ Japan’s major clients.
HKR said in a statement that appointments of consultancy firms have been made on an objective basis, with the company looking at firms’ reputation within the industry and their professional standards.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Executive said Leung has already transferred the stakes in Wintrack Worldwide (BVI), a overseas-registered company, and its subsidiaries, as well as the shares in DTZ, into a trust.
Legislative Councilor Cyd Ho from Labour Party said suspicion of conflict of interest will not be laid to rest by transferring one’s stakes into a trust. By declaring only his shareholding interest in Wintrack Worldwide, Leung is effectively covering up his actual stakes, Ho says.
Democratic Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting, a former investigator at the ICAC, said there is no evidence that Leung has granted ATV a favor in relation to grant of broadcast licenses. However, if it is found that related parties have worked in tandem to prevent HKBN from obtaining a license, it could be a different matter, he said.
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