Former Independent Commission Against Corruption chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming will not face criminal prosecution for misconduct in public office, or any other offence, in connection to his lavish expenditure, the Department of Justice has announced.
An investigation commenced in 2013 when the ICAC received complaints against Tong, who was Commissioner of the corruption watchdog from 2012-2015. The accusations relate to using public funds for entertainment activities, overseas duty trips taken, his acceptance – and offering of – gifts and the employment of a mainland academic.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen and Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung Kar-hung said that there is insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Tong, under both common law and statutory law. However, Yeung clarified that just because Tong would not be facing charges does not mean the Department of Justice approved of his behaviour.
“Both the opinion of the Queen’s Counsel Mr Jonathan Caplan and also the independent assessment of the Prosecution Division is that, on the whole, there is no evidence – or no sufficient evidence – rather, to justify the commencement of any criminal offence, including the criminal offence of misfeasance in public office…” Yuen said.
Both Yuen and Yeung said that the only question they had been concerned with was whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant criminal proceedings. This involved examining whether there was a reasonable prospect of success in securing a conviction.
Yuen said that the reason a Queen’s Counsel was consulted, and the prosecution carried out its own investigation, was to ensure the independence and objectivity of the decision, which was important to the rule of law in Hong Kong.
Yuen also denied the existence of any political factors, saying that the decision had nothing to do with the China Liaison Office or the involvement of mainland officials. “There is no need to use your imagination too much,” Yuen said.
Speaking to reporters, current ICAC Commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu said that the incident affected the public image of the watchdog, and since then, its internal governance had been improved and regulations had been amended so that there are no more loopholes. He also said that there were no political considerations involved.