"Mr. A" filed judicial review to halt disclosure of materials seized in the Kwok brothers' case

We reported in previous updates that the joint chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties, Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong and Raymond Kwok Ping-luen, former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan, and two others were formally charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in July 2012 and their charges were further amended in February 2013.

The matter took a new twist in mid-April when a person, referred to as "Mr. A" for anonymity reasons, applied for a judicial review of the decision by the Secretary of Justice to disclose to the defence certain "unused materials".  The materials in question included materials seized by the ICAC from Mr. A's residential premises last May. Mr. A, who is neither a defendant nor a witness in the case, claims that disclosing the materials to the defence will violate the protection of informers offered under section 30A of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance (POBO).

In the investigation of corruption offences, there is much public interest in maintaining the confidentiality of the sources of information to the ICAC such that individuals are not deterred from providing information and informers' anonymity is protected.  In particular, section 30A provides that, inter alia, no witness is obliged to disclose the name or address of any informer who has given information to or assisted the ICAC with respect to a POBO offense; no witness is obliged to answer any question if the answer would lead to discovery of the name or address of such informer or other person who is not a witness; and if any books, documents or papers which are in evidence or liable to inspection contain an entry in which such informer or person is named or described or which might lead to his discovery, the court shall cause all passages be concealed from view or to be obliterated so far as may be necessary to protect him from discovery.  

Proposed amendments to restrict access to directors' personal information withdrawn

We reported in previous updates that the government proposed in September last year to amend the Companies Ordinance and restrict access to personal information of company directors, e.g., by showing only a partial identity card number and substituting residential addresses with correspondence address. The proposal received city-wide concerns including objections from the Hong Kong Association of Banks and shareholder activist groups.

At the end of March, the government announced that the relevant proposals will be put on hold; in other words, residential addresses and full identification number of company directors will remain publicly accessible.

In response to the decision, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data has urged the Government to lay down a timetable for enacting the proposed amendments, especially where the current system allowing public access to directors' personal data may be open to misuse and wrongful access.

It is anticipated that more time and consultation is needed for Hong Kong to reach a greater consensus on how to balance the need to safeguard the privacy of directors and concerns to maintain the transparency of Hong Kong's company database.

Former ICAC Chief investigated for lavish hospitality spending

Former commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Timothy Tong Hin-ming, is being investigated by Legislative Council for allegedly lavish hospitality expenses.

At the end of April, complaints were made by former ICAC investigator and another legislator concerning Mr. Tong's hospitality expenses during his tenure as ICAC's commissioner of the ICAC. Allegedly, Mr. Tong has used public funds for excessive travel, hosting extravagant banquets, and buying gifts predominantly for officials in mainland China.

The Audit Commission of the Legislative Council is conducting an investigation into the matter and a hearing will be held in May.

Former Development Minister stands trial for abusing government housing allowance

We reported in previous updates that Mak Chai-kwong, former Development Minister and Tsang King-Man, Assistant Highways Director, were prosecuted by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in October last year for joint conspiracy to defraud the Government.

Allegedly, the two defendants misrepresented their financial or proprietary interest in the leased properties in their applications for Private Tenancy Allowance; the case involves over HK$700,000.

The case is being heard at the district court and no decision has been handed down as at the time of writing.