The bribery charge against former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen will not be tried for the third time unless the court agrees, prosecutor David Perry said on Monday.
According to Perry, the prosecution has requested to leave the charge against Tsang on file at the High Court and the court has approved, suggesting it will not seek a retrial, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The development came after an eight-member jury was dismissed by High Court justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai on Friday after it failed to reach a verdict despite 14 hours of deliberations.
Nevertheless, Perry did not completely rule out the possibility of another retrial if there is a change of circumstance or new evidence since Tsang has appealed against his earlier conviction, adding any retrial can only happen with the High Court’s approval.
Tsang, who led Hong Kong for seven years from 2005, had been charged with one count of accepting an advantage as chief executive and two counts of misconduct in public office, making him the highest-ranking Hong Kong official ever to face a graft trial.
The former Hong Kong leader was accused of taking a bribe by accepting free renovation of a Shenzhen flat between 2010 and 2012 from Bill Wong Cho-bau, the boss of radio broadcaster Wave Media Ltd. (later renamed Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong), in return for a digital radio license to one of his companies.
As he failed to disclose to the Executive Council his interest in the Shenzhen property as well as his decision to grant an official honor to Barrie Ho Chow-lai, the designer in charge of the renovation, he was charged with misconduct in public office.
In February, Tsang was sentenced to 20 months in prison for misconduct in office but was granted bail two months later pending an appeal.
The jury then failed to reach a verdict on the bribery charge, leading to a retrial which ended up with the same result ont Friday.
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a principal lecturer at the Department of Law of the University of Hong Kong, said a third trial is very unlikely unless there is a breakthrough development such as new evidence against Tsang.
Citing case examples in Britain, Cheung said two criteria must be met before the High Court grants a retrial. One is that the offense itself is very serious, such as murder or terrorist attack, and the other is strong evidence discovered, both of which do not apply to Tsang’s bribery charge.
The prosecution’s move to keep the charge on file shows it might be hedging its bets, Cheung said.
Meanwhile, Perry said the prosecution has applied to the court to claim back one-third of the litigation fee involved.
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