ICAC left no stone unturned in CY Leung probe, says review panel

December 19, 2018 14:23
Benjamin Tang (second left), chairman of the Operations Review Committee, said the ICAC handled the UGL case without any prejudice or fear. Photo: HKEJ

The head of a panel that overseesthe investigative work of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said officers of the anti-graft body had “left no stone unturned” in probing the case of alleged corruption involving former chief executive Leung Chun-ying.

Benjamin Tang Kwok-bun, chairman of the independent Operations Review Committee, said that after detailed study and careful consideration, his panel agreed that the case, in which Leung did not declare having received HK$50 million from the Australian engineering firm UGL, needed no further investigation, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Tang made the remarks during a press briefing on Tuesday about the accomplishments of ICAC in 2018.

He stressed that the ICAC operations department handled the case without any prejudice or fear, and had not received any special treatment because of the background and status of the person involved.

The committee asked many questions and there was a progress report for every meeting held regarding the case, Tang said. 

The Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a statement on Dec. 12 that the ICAC had conducted a comprehensive investigation of the case. 

It concluded that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute Leung, after having carefully considered the investigation reports and the relevant materials submitted by the ICAC, the statement said. 

The investigation showed that UGL signed an agreement with Leung and paid him HK$50 million 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. 

The DoJ concluded that 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 received under the agreement with UGL which he entered into before he became Hong Kong chief executive. 

Leung is currently a vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body.  

Pan-democrats said the decision to drop the case against Leung was too simple, and demanded that Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah come to the Legislative Council to explain her department's decision. 

Tang said he believes Cheng, who is on holiday until next Thursday, will give a detailed explanation about the case to allay public concerns at the appropriate time, adding that his committee holds more information related to the case than that provided in the DoJ statement. 

Asked if the DoJ had sought legal opinions from third parties before making its decision, Tang said the committee cannot speak on behalf of the department. 

Chow Chung-kong, who chairs the Advisory Committee on Corruption, told the same press briefing that it cannot be said that Hong Kong is not a clean society simply because the ICAC has decided not to prosecute someone. 

He noted that the ICAC has gained wide recognition and support for its anti-corruption work from members of the public.

Chow, who is also a member of the Executive Council, called on the public not to assume that a person is guilty even before the case is concluded because that’s not the meaning of the rule of law in Hong Kong.

He said the DoJ will make further clarifications on the UGL case.

Speaking to media before attending a regular Executive Council meeting on Tuesday, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, who is the acting chief executive, said when the DoJ will explain its decision on the case to the Legco depends on its own decision.

He reiterated that the DoJ controls criminal prosecutions without interference and its decision should be respected.

Responding to questions from the HKEJ, the DoJ said it is inappropriate for the department to comment any further on why it decided not to prosecute Leung since an application for a judicial review on its decision has been filed.

Meanwhile, data from the ICAC showed it received 2,494 corruption complaints that were unrelated to elections in the first 11 months of the year, down 6 percent from a year ago

Of the complaints, 66 percent concerned private organizations, 27 percent related to government departments and 7 percent involved public organizations.

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