Former Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang is facing a prison sentence following his conviction on corruption charges.
Last week, a jury delivered an 8-1 decision, finding Tsang guilty of one count of misconduct in public office. On Monday, the High Court refused his bail application, earning him the distinction of becoming the first Hong Kong leader to be put behind bars.
However, Tsang managed to avoid spending the night at a holding center after coming down with a “severe cough,” and being transferred to a local hospital where his family visited him on Tuesday morning.
The disgraced former leader’s sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday. The presiding judge Mr. Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai has said it is unlikely that Tsang would be given a suspended sentence.
Tsang, the second chief executive of Hong Kong, serving from 2005 to 2012, was formally charged with two counts of misconduct in public office back in 2015 following years of investigation, becoming the highest ranking former Hong Kong official to be brought up on corruption charges. Both of the charges related to Tsang’s lease of a luxury flat in Shenzhen at a bargain rate.
Allegations of Tsang’s corruption began surfacing 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 millions on its renovation alone.
Pictures of Tsang and wife wining and dining with high rollers on a triple deck luxury yacht were also 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,” Tsang said about the hell that his life had become.
Private yacht and jet trips certainly seem unlikely now that a jury has found that Tsang had deliberately concealed negotiations over the penthouse owned by businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau, just as he was approving applications made by a radio station of which Wong was a shareholder.
However, jurors were not able to reach a verdict on a bribery charge in which Tsang is accused of accepting a redecoration of his penthouse, costing Wong HK$3.35 million, for free.
Tsang will face a retrial on the charge at a later date.
Ahead of Tsang’s sentencing, the court has been presented with over 40 letters of mitigation, including ones written by top city leaders like Carrie Lam, John Tsang and Wong Yan-lung, stressing the former chief executive’s diligent years of public service.
For instance, Lam, former Chief Secretary and current candidate for Chief Executive, wrote:
As the Honourable Court may recall, I was a witness in the case of Donald Tsang Yam-kuen. I write this letter to pray that your Lordship may extend leniency to Mr Tsang.
I have known Donald for over 30 years. As I said during the trial, he had been my role model in public service. For seven years between 1993 and 2000, he was my superior in the then Finance Branch and later Finance Bureau. I saw a hard-working, dedicated, and intelligent senior official who was a demanding yet caring supervisor.
Donald’s contribution as the first Chinese financial secretary and the financial secretary whose term straddled 1997 deserves special mention. In leading us to complete the 1997-1998 transitional budget, he helped make real the principle of “one country, two systems”. He also showed his strong compassion for those in need by putting in place a package of relief measures in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis.
It remains to be seen if this outpouring of support from establishment figures will help Tsang. Misconduct in public office carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail.
[Images via hk.01]
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