Tycoon wins court nod for UK lawyer in extradition bill case

May 24, 2019 13:59
Queen's Counsel David Pannick, who has handled multiple cases in Hong Kong before, will join billionaire Joseph Lau's legal team in his judicial review application against the extradition bill. Photo: HKEJ

The High Court approved a request by billionaire Joseph Lau Luen-hung to bring a prominent British lawyer to the legal team that will represent him in a judicial review application against the extradition bill.

Queen's Counsel David Pannick, a human rights specialist, will join the team, whose members include Senior Counsel Gerard McCoy, after the High Court dismissed objections from the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) on Thursday, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The HKBA argued that the four lawyers who already work for Lau are all extremely experienced, particularly in constitutional and extradition laws, and as such, they question the need for Pannick to join his legal team at the application stage.

The DoJ said the fact that the case is not overly complicated or difficult means there is no need for Lau to seek Pannick’s assistance.

However, McCoy said that as the case involves Article 38 of the Basic Law and is the most controversial constitutional case in recent years, Pannick can be of assistance to the court as an expert in constitutional law.

He also noted that Pannick had come to Hong Kong for trials of multiple cases before and had never been rejected, adding that he had represented the DoJ in a number of those cases.

The extradition bill is not going through the Legislative Council's conventional procedures and is bypassing the bills committee. As such, next month’s hearing could be the only one before legislative procedures are concluded for the enactment of the proposed amendments to the extradition laws as there is not enough time for other parties to put forward an appeal against it, McCoy said.

He asked the court to consider the uniqueness of the case and allow Pannick to join Lau’s legal team, adding that the British barrister will only provide assistance and not replace any of the local lawyers in the team.

After hearing arguments from all sides, Justice Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor of the Court of First Instance decided to grant Lau's request, with a written explanation for his judgment to be issued at a later date.

Poon also attached the condition that the four other members of Lau's legal team must also be present during hearings of the application for leave, RTHK reported.

Lau applied for the judicial review in early April to avoid serving jail time in Macau.

In 2014, a Macau court found Lau guilty of bribery and money laundering in a case involving the gaming hub's former secretary for transport and public works Ao Man-long. In absentia, Lau was sentenced to five years and three months in prison.

The property tycoon, who cited ill health for not attending the trial, has been living in Hong Kong because the city has no formal extradition agreement with Macau.

The hearing for Lau’s application for leave to apply for the judicial review is scheduled for June 21.

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