The Department of Justice (DoJ) has decided not to take any further action against former chief executive Leung Chun-ying as regards his undeclared acceptance of HK$50 million from Australian engineering firm UGL, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In a statement on Wednesday, the DoJ pointed out that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) had conducted a comprehensive investigation of the case.
Having carefully considered the investigation reports and the relevant materials submitted by the ICAC, the DoJ concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute Leung, the statement said.
A prosecution should not be initiated or continued unless the prosecutor is satisfied that there is legally sufficient evidence to support it, and the decision not to prosecute Leung is solely based on the insufficiency of evidence, the DoJ added.
In October 2014, at the height of the pro-democracy protests, Australian media reported that Leung received HK$50 million in confidential payment from UGL.
The Australian firm allegedly signed an agreement with Leung and paid him the amount in installments in 2012 and 2013 during his incumbency as chief executive as part of the deal regarding its takeover of DTZ, a United Kingdom-listed real estate services firm in which Leung was a director. Leung failed to declare it and paid no taxes for it.
Leung, now a vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, has denied any wrongdoing.
The DoJ noted that DTZ had knowledge of Leung entering into agreement with and accepting money from UGL for Leung’s non-compete, non-poach arrangements, and the evidence fell short of establishing DTZ did not consent to Leung accepting the monies or that the conduct fell within the mischief of an agent accepting an advantage as defined under Section 9 of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, Cap 201.
As such, there is no reasonable prospect of conviction of a corruption charge against Leung, the DoJ said.
There was no conflict of interest on the part of Leung and no legal requirement for him to make a declaration of the amount that he was to receive under the agreement with UGL entered into before he became Hong Kong chief executive, the justice department said.
The DoJ also decided there was insufficient evidence to prove that lawmaker Holden Chow Ho-ding from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) had committed misconduct in public office for being suspected of interfering with the work of a Legislative Council select committee, which was set up in November 2016 to inquire if Leung had violated any law in the UGL saga.
Chow had been accused of helping Leung influence the scope of the inquiry, which caused him to step down last year as deputy chairman of the committee. The ICAC said it was dropping a probe into Chow on the matter.
Leung did not make any comment in response to the DoJ’s decision on the UGL saga. Chow said he respects the professional decisions made by both the DoJ and the ICAC and hopes the whole thing can now come to an end.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said the DoJ’s decision not to prosecute Leung was disappointing and astonishing.
Lam, a former ICAC investigator, had initiated a fundraising campaign, called “Wolf-Hunting Action”, to seek the people’s support to gather further evidence on the UGL saga.
He said the campaign will continue their remaining work in Hong Kong, Australia and the United Kingdom.
He also pledged to pursue the case in different Legco committees, although he admitted that such efforts are likely to be hindered since most of the committees are currently dominated by the pro-establishment camp.
Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a principal lecturer at the Department of Law of the University of Hong Kong, criticized the DoJ, saying its statement on the UGL case was “too simple” and it failed to provide sufficient explanation for its decisions.
Former ICAC chief investigator Stephen Char Shik-ngor, who is a barrister, said the DoJ should have given a detailed account of the incident.
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