February 18, 2017 2:00 am JST

Ex-Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang found guilty

Highest official ever convicted of criminal offense in territory

JENNIFER LO, Nikkei staff writer

Donald Tsang, former Hong Kong chief executive, at center, leaves court on Friday evening after being found guilty on one count of misconduct. © AP

HONG KONG -- After a nearly six-week trial jurors found former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang Yam-kuen guilty of one count of misconduct in public office, but dismissed a second count. The jury failed to reach a decision on another corruption charge.

On Friday evening nine jurors reached a majority verdict of 8:1 on a misconduct charge facing Tsang, 72, former chief executive and the highest-ranking public official to be prosecuted in Hong Kong history.

The prosecution related to Tsang's failure to reveal his ties with businessman Bill Wong Cho-bau over a three-story penthouse in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen between 2010 and 2012. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on whether Tsang was guilty of receiving an "advantage" -- a renovation fee of HK$3.35 million ($432,000) paid by Wong for the penthouse, which was rented by Tsang.

However, Tsang was convicted for failing to disclose his negotiations to rent the penthouse from Wong, a major shareholder of radio station Wave Media, which at that time was applying for a broadcast license from the government. Wave Media, later renamed as Digital Broadcasting, shut down last September due to dwindling advertising revenue.

The jury dismissed another charge -- that Tsang nominated architect Barrie Ho Chow-lai for a government award without disclosing to relevant bodies that Ho was providing interior design work for the penthouse.

Each of the three charges carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail. Tsang was allowed to leave on bail over the weekend. The court will reconvene Monday to hear from the prosecution on how to handle the charge on which the jury failed to reach a decision. The jury was dismissed by the judge.

Hands shaking

A long-time civil servant, Tsang kept his head down after the verdict and his hands were shaking. He left the courtroom with family members without responding to questions from journalists. His wife patted his head and one of his sons was seen sobbing.

Tsang's conviction followed a series of graft scandals and allegations against top Hong Kong officials in recent years. This has aroused concerns about the cozy ties between officials and the business elite, and fears that the territory's relatively clean image might be tarnished.

In 2014 former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, Tsang's immediate subordinate from 2005 to 2007, was sentenced to seven years in prison for accepting bribes of nearly HK$20 million. Of that amount, HK$8.5 million was paid by billionaire Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, who was then co-chairman of Sun Hung Kai Properties.

Incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who declared he will drop his bid for a second term, could also face investigation from Hong Kong's anti-graft body for his acceptance of a controversial payment.

Leung was accused of failing to disclose that he received HK$50 million from Australian engineering company UGL through DTZ, a property consultancy where his last position was Asia Pacific director. Leung received the payment after he became the chief executive in 2012, insisting that the money was compensation for past services.

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