Lawmakers are questioning a decision by the city’s anti-graft body not to interview Bank of East Asia Chairman David Li Kwok-po during its 44-month probe into ex-leader Donald Tsang’s bribery allegations.
Tsang, who served as Hong Kong’s leader between 2005 and 2012, was handed a 20 month jail sentence on Wednesday for misconduct in office. The High Court ordered a retrial for September over his bribery charge, after a nine-person jury was unable to reach a decision on the charge last week.
‘Shocking and incredible’
Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said Wednesday that the jail term sent a clear message to people in public office that “they must avoid all conflicts of interest.”
He said that if Tsang was also convicted of bribery, he may receive a heavier sentence.
But Lam, formerly with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), criticised the anti-graft watchdog for deciding not to obtain evidence from bank chief David Li, who allegedly gave HK$350,000 in cash to Tsang through his wife Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei.
During the corruption trial, ICAC Director of Investigation Ricky Yu Chun-cheong told the court that his team made the decision on the basis that it expected Li would not cooperate.
Yu said his staff spent five months negotiating with the Bank of East Asia before even gaining permission to speak to its employees.
Describing Yu’s reasoning as “shocking and incredible,” Lam urged the watchdog and Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen to explain to the public as soon as possible.
“There is no justification to wait for Li’s cooperation, let alone assuming that he would not cooperate and therefore forgoing the chance to collect evidence from a key suspect and other witnesses,” the lawmaker said.
Lam’s party colleague James To also slammed the ICAC for being “completely negligent” in performing its duty in the corruption probe.
Li previously told Ming Pao that it was “unfair” that the ICAC did not approach him, and that he would “truthfully answer” their questions if they interview him.
Radio host Li Wei-ling said that the biggest takeaway of Tsang’s conviction for public officers is that “they should be careful about who they befriend.”
“Tsang always hung out with tycoons on yachts and private jets – even a man of integrity would eventually become corrupt,” she said. “This corrupt culture in the government started after the 1997 handover, and it must be eradicated.”
Meanwhile, the ex-leader’s wife Selina Tsang said outside the court on Wednesday that the sentencing was disappointing.
“Today is a very dark day. My family and I are very disappointed and sad about today’s ruling. Donald and I faced tremendous pressure over the last five years, so we are very sad about the outcome,” she said.
“But we will stay strong and courageous. We will appeal.”