Hong Kong’s former top official Leung Chun-ying declared on Saturday that Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) had decided to halt its investigation of a case involving HK$50 million (US$6.3 million) paid to him by an Australian engineering firm while he led the city.
The news was later confirmed by Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting, who filed a complaint with the authority last November.
The NCA’s latest decision came the same day after Lam and his party colleague, Andrew Wan Siu-kin, met its staff in London over the matter at noon on Friday.
Lam said they presented the latest information and legal arguments to staff director Katie Gunn, including advice from a British senior counsel that there were sufficient grounds to launch an investigation under the country’s jurisdiction.
Leung fired back with his statement, posted on Facebook on Saturday morning, or midnight London time.
Now a vice-chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, Leung said he had received a letter from the NCA – without specifying when.
He posted only an excerpt: “The NCA has now completed a comprehensive review of the material provided to date.”
The letter further stated: “The NCA has also conducted its own inquiries and made every reasonable effort to obtain corroborating material in order to reach a decision … After careful consideration, the NCA has concluded that on the basis of the information acquired, there is insufficient evidence to progress the investigation.”
Leung then wrote: “Lam Cheuk-ting reported the case to the NCA in a high-profile way a few months ago and kept chasing the matter. There is no way he did not know that the NCA had made a decision.”
Lam confirmed that he received the email, only when he woke up in London on Saturday. He disclosed the entire email dated on Friday from NCA’s Prosperity Director Donald Toon, who wrote him the same paragraphs as Leung posted.
Toon declined Lam’s request to meet representatives of the agency and said this would not be possible as doing so was “unlikely to alter our assessment”.
In a statement, Lam and Wan clarified they were not told about the progress of the investigation during their meeting with Gunn on Friday, but were asked to email them supplemental information.
“We are very disappointed by the NCA’s decision,” they wrote. “It is difficult to understand why the NCA is no longer following up the case, and we will demand the NCA explain its rationale.”
The pair said they would liaise with their legal teams in both Hong Kong and Britain for their next move, besides calling on British lawmakers to pursue the case and studying plans to follow it up in Australia.
The Democratic Party has raised more than HK$2,000,000 from more than 6,400 donors after it launched a crowdfunding campaign to bankroll an international investigation into Leung’s case.
Wan said the fund was operated on a reimbursement basis and the surplus, if any, would be donated to charity. According to the last report disclosed in June, around HK$480,000 had been spent.
“We understand both the expectations of the public and the difficulties of following up Leung Chun-ying’s UGL case through civil society,” Lam and Wan said. “No matter how difficult it is … we must go all out to thoroughly investigate and not let the public down.”
Since 2014, Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption has been investigating a payment of HK$50 million from Australian engineering firm UGL to Leung while he was the city’s leader from July 2012 to June 30, 2017.
Leung struck the lucrative deal following UGL’s 2011 purchase of DTZ, a property services company once listed in Britain, of which he was a director. As part of the bargain, he agreed not to form or join a rival firm and to help promote the company.
He received part of the sum after becoming chief executive in 2012. But he did not declare this during a meeting with his cabinet, the Executive Council, sparking concerns over a possible conflict of interest.
In his Facebook post on Saturday, Leung slammed the pair for making use of a Legislative Council tour supported by public money to generate more hype over the matter.
A Legco delegation is visiting parliaments in London and Edinburgh from now until next Sunday.
Lam and Wan arrived early on Thursday and met Labour Party politician Catherine West and Transparency International, a global anti-corruption NGO, in their bid to advance the investigation into Leung.
Author: Kimmy Chung