29 January 2020
Paul Chan (inset) has faced conflict of interest allegations with regard to farmland in an area marked for development. Photo: HKEJ, Xinhua
Paul Chan (inset) has faced conflict of interest allegations with regard to farmland in an area marked for development. Photo: HKEJ, Xinhua

ICAC faces questions after dropping Paul Chan farmland probe

Hong Kong’s anti-graft agency is facing questions over a decision to shelve an investigation into Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, who has been accused of conflict of interest in relation to a development project in New Territories. 

Former legislator Mandy Tam Heung-man, who lodged a complaint against Chan in 2013 for the official’s alleged failure to disclose farmland property interests in an area earmarked for a new town development project, said she is baffled by the decision to drop the probe. 

She said she cannot understand why the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has dropped the case after two years of investigation, despite evidence against Chan of serious conflict of interest.

The ICAC has failed to provide an explanation for its move, raising suspicions that bureaucrats were protecting one another, Tam said, according to Apple Daily. 

Chan was accused of conflict of interest after it came to light in 2013 that he did not disclose his ownership of three plots of farmland that fell within a new town development area in northeast New Territories.

There were suggestions that he was seeking to benefit through government compensation that is paid to landowners. 

The ICAC said in a letter, which was posted Wednesday by Tam on her Facebook page, that it has conducted the investigation in accordance with the law, and that it consulted the Department of Justice for legal advice.

The investigation results were brought before ICAC’s operations review committee, chaired by Maria Tam Wai-Chu, on April 29 this year.

The committee agreed after deliberations that the ICAC has completed the follow-up work within its purview, and that it will not proceed further with the investigation, the anti-graft agency said.

Apple Daily cited sources as saying that ICAC’s investigations focused on whether Chan’s conduct could be deemed as misconduct in public office. The agency found no evidence that Chan had acquired the land plots through bribery or using his official position, according to the sources.

Civic Party legislator Chan Ka-lok said the public has the right to know more about the case, given that Chan is a senior official.

Democratic Party chief executive Lam Cheuk-ting, a former ICAC chief investigator, pointed out Chan has owned 18,000 square feet of farmland at Kwu Tung since 1994.

The land was in the area covered by the development plan for the northeast New Territories project, and Chan should have been aware of the conflict of interest, Lam said.

It was revealed in 2013 that Chan had owned the land through a company that acquired the property 21 years ago.  

Chan’s wife, Frieda Hui Po-ing, and his son shared ownership of the sites. Hui later sold her 37.5 stake to her brother Hui Ka-lun for HK$2.7 million.

The company reportedly still owns the land.

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