The Independent Commission Against Corruption has formally charged former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen with two counts of misconduct in public office. Tsang becomes the highest-ranking former HK official to be brought up on corruption charges.
The two charges relate to Tsang’s lease of a luxury flat in Shenzhen at a bargain rate. Here are the particulars from a statement released earlier today by the HK Department of Justice:
(1) The first charge alleges that during the period between November 2, 2010, and January 20, 2012, Mr Tsang, in the course of or in relation to his public office (i.e. as the Chief Executive (CE) of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR)), without any reasonable excuse or justification, willfully misconducted himself by concealing from, or by failing to declare or disclose to, the Executive Council (ExCo) during the relevant ExCo meetings in which various licence or related applications by Wave Media Limited (WML) (subsequently renamed as Digital Broadcasting Corporation Hong Kong Limited) were discussed and approved, his negotiations with Mr Wong Cho-bau, a major shareholder of WML, concerning a lease in respect of a residential unit situated at East Pacific Garden in Shenzhen (the Residential Unit) and the related payment of RMB800,000 to a company of Mr Wong in November 2010.
(2) The second charge alleges that during the period between around December 2010 and July 2011, Mr Tsang, in the course of or in relation to his said public office (i.e. as the CE of the HKSAR), without reasonable excuse or justification, willfully misconducted himself by failing to disclose to, or by concealing from, Mr Kenneth Mak Ching-yu (the then Permanent Secretary for the CE’s Office), the Development Bureau and the Honours and Non-Official Justices of the Peace Selection Committee, his interest in the lease of the Residential Unit and the engagement of Mr Barrie Ho Chow-lai for interior design work of the Residential Unit when he proposed that Mr Ho be referred for consideration for nomination under the HKSAR honours and awards system.
Tsang was the second chief executive of Hong Kong, serving from 2005 to 2012. He issued a statement to SCMP saying that he is confident of being found not guilty in court following an ICAC investigation that has lasted more than 3 years.
“Over the past three and a half years, I have assisted fully with the investigations by the Independent Commission Against Corruption. My conscience is clear. I have every confidence that the court will exonerate me after its proceedings,” he said in the statement.
Allegations of Tsang receiving gifts from tycoons surfaced immediately as he was leaving office in 2012. His three-story 6,500 sq ft retirement penthouse in Shenzhen was reported to be a gift from the developer. Agents familiar with the situation said that the apartment could fetch around HK$50 million on the market with the developer already spending HK$17 million on the renovation alone.
Earlier that year, pictures of Tsang and wife wining and dining with high rollers on a triple deck luxury yacht were splashed across local media. Tsang admitted he accepted the luxury yacht trip offered by a tycoon and joined in a banquet at a Macau casino resort, but said he paid his own way there “at market price.”
“I believe after this, no one will dare to invite me to their yacht. And no one will invite me to their private jets,” said Tsang about the hell that his life had become.
Misconduct in public office carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.