28 October 2016
Timothy Tong denied he had done anything wrong by spending public funds on the lavish entertainment of mainland officials. Photo: HKEJ
Timothy Tong denied he had done anything wrong by spending public funds on the lavish entertainment of mainland officials. Photo: HKEJ

Lawmakers question decision not to prosecute former ICAC boss

Lawmakers and a former top graft investigator questioned the decision by the Department of Justice not to prosecute the ex-boss of Hong Kong’s antigraft agency, Apple Daily reported Thursday. 

The DOJ announced its decision Wednesday after it spent more than two years investigating and seeking legal opinions regarding complaints against alleged lavish expenditure by Timothy Tong Hin-ming when he was chief of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The department said the decision not to prosecute Tong is solely based upon insufficiency of evidence but should not be interpreted as an endorsement of Tong’s conduct.

DOJ said it engaged Queen’s Counsel Jonathan Caplan to provide an independent legal opinion after it received the investigation report and relevant materials from the ICAC.

Caplan’s final advice to the DOJ in October last year was that there wasn’t enough evidence to support a prosecution against Tong, whether for the offense of misconduct in public office or any other criminal offense.

Asked at a news conference whether the decision was made because the case involved Tong entertaining officials from Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong and other mainland authorities, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung denied that any political factors were taken into account.

Labor Party lawmaker Cyd Ho Sau-lan, deputy chairwoman of the Legislative Council’s panel on Tong’s case, said all the evidence shows Tong intentionally circumvented regulations in putting on his lavish treats for mainland officials.

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang urged the DOJ to give a more detailed explanation of its decision to the public.

Also disappointed at the decision, the Democratic Party’s chief executive, Lam Cheuk-ting, who is a former ICAC chief investigator, said it does serious harm to the probity culture of civil servants.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung Kar-hung said there was no reasonable chance Tong would have been convicted even if he were to be prosecuted, although some of his acts might have been seen as failing public expectations.

ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu told reporters the agency had taken a proactive and fair approach during its investigation of Tong’s conduct.

After the ICAC received complaints against Tong in April 2013, it set up a special investigation unit the next month to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the complaints.

Tong was accused of entertaining mainland officials too often and too lavishly during his five-year tenure to 2012 before he was appointed a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He denied any wrongdoing.

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