Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Ex-ICAC Chief Free from Prosecution

Ex-head of the anti-graft agency won't face further prosecution or investigation
Today there was finally an announcement of former ICAC chief Timothy Tong Hin-ming's fate -- that he would not be further prosecuted, nor further investigated.

Case closed.

What? Really?

When he was commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption from 2007-2012, Tong was found to have spent taxpayer money on lavish gifts and hosting dinners, for not only his mainland counterparts, but other Chinese officials too. He also invited his friends and relatives to dine at these dinners at taxpayers' expense.

For example, Tong hosted 206 meals that were listed as "official entertainment", and overspent on 77 of them. This compares with only two percent of the 460 meals hosted by other ICAC officers that overspent.

Apparently there isn't enough evidence to prosecute him -- or there is no law that he has broken.

ICAC's report says Tong didn't break rules in lavish spending
"With respect to the purchase of hard liquor, it is noted that there were neither regulations nor internal rules within the ICAC prohibiting the consumption or purchase of hard liquor, including Maotai during Mr Tong's tenure," the department for Justice said in a statement.

"It is also noted that even before his tenure, there had been occasions of serving hard liquor at official functions. It is unfortunately that the relevant rules and regulations in this regard at the time were not clear."

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said applicable internal ICAC rules, that have since been revamped, made it difficult to prosecute Tong.

Yuen and current ICAC commissioner Simon Peh Yun-lu denied the decision was politically motivated, though Tong was appointed a CPPCC official in 2013; it made some wonder if all that wining and dining he did was to help him get that political position.

It is very disappointing that Tong did not get prosecuted, based on the fact that there were no strict rules in place about entertaining or giving lavish gifts, that it was more based on the officials' sense of morality and responsibility.

Did Tong know that before he bought all that booze? Now that's a question worth asking.

Regardless, the optics of this whole fiasco make the ICAC and the justice department look bad.

Who is the public supposed to believe?

A former ICAC investigator as well as several lawmakers are calling for full disclosure of the legal advice given to the justice department to lead it to today's announcement.

We shall see how the request is received...

Meanwhile today Transparency International released its latest Corruption Perceptions Index, where Hong Kong was ranked 18th along with Ireland and Japan. Hong Kong's score was 75 for 2015, up one from 2014. It was at 75 for 2013, and 77 for 2012.

It's intriguing that Hong Kong is thought to have improved on becoming less corrupt, though the number of complaints about corruption increased by 20 percent last year.

Is it me, or is it coincidence that the announcement about Tong is the same day Transparency International's report comes out? Makes one wonder what's really going on...

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