The District Court found former senior government official Wilson Fung Wing-yip guilty of misconduct in public office for accepting HK$510,000 from his lover, Macau businesswoman Cheyenne Chan Ung-iok, and failing to declare an obvious conflict of interest, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
But Fung, who was deputy secretary for economic development and labor from 2003 to 2006, was acquitted of the other charge of accepting an advantage as a public servant.
Chan, a former director and shareholder of three aviation companies, was acquitted of the charge of offering an advantage to a public servant.
In his ruling announced on Thursday, District Court Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong said it is not possible that Fung did not know his act had amounted to conflict of interest when he accepted the money from Chan while working as a government official at the time.
In May, Fung told the court that he learned Chan was executive director of an aviation company only in May 2005, or about one and a half years after they started their affair.
But Yau said it is impossible for him not to know that Chan worked in the senior management of the company.
The judge said Fung must have accepted the money out of greed because the amount was four times what he earned monthly and that he deliberately chose not to declare it.
As such, Yau found Fung guilty of misconduct in public office.
Fung was accused of having accepted HK$510,000 in September 2004 from Chan and acting in a manner favorable to Chan’s companies over a three-year period between 2004 and 2006.
He was charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in 2018 when he was executive director of corporate development at the Airport Authority.
The amount, according to the prosecution, was paid as part of a deposit on a luxury flat in Mid-Levels bought by Fung and his wife Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, who currently heads the government’s Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office.
As for Chan, a sister-in-law of Macau casino magnate Stanley Ho Hung-sun, the judge said if she indeed wanted to get preferential treatment from high-ranking officials, she did not have to give them money to purchase the flat as luxury watches of a similar price would do.
Since Fung and Chan were engaged in an extramarital affair, Yau said, Chan did not need to give the money to Fung in such a “cumbersome, tortuous and easy-to-trace way”, The Standard reported.
Yau said the money could be the profit from other property transactions made by Fung and Chan, but bribery was not the “only reasonable inference”, the newspaper reported.
The judge admitted the transaction was suspicious, but giving them the benefit of the doubt, he decided to acquit Fung of accepting an advantage as a public servant, and Chan of offering an advantage to a public servant.
In one of the 37 letters of leniency presented by the defense, Betty Fung, the defendant’s wife, said although the revelations in the court about the relationship between her husband and Chan had made her family suffer great pain, she is convinced that he has learned a big lesson.
She said she hoped he would be given a chance that would allow their family to start a new chapter.
A total of 24 incumbent and former government officials, including Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah, also wrote letters seeking leniency for Fung.
Yau made it clear that Fung will be put behind bars for no less than one month as the maximum sentence for a person convicted of misconduct in public office is seven years.
Rejecting a bail application, the judge remanded Fung in custody pending sentencing on Sept. 12.
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