HONG KONG — Former Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang was found guilty on Friday (Feb 17) of misconduct during his time at the helm of the city in a high-profile corruption trial, but escaped conviction for bribery.
Tsang, 72, is the most senior city official ever to be convicted in a criminal trial, at a time when residents are losing faith in Hong Kong’s leaders as a string of prominent corruption cases fuel public suspicion over cosy links between authorities and businessmen.
He was found guilty of failing to disclose his plans to lease a luxury flat in Shenzhen for his retirement from a major investor in a broadcaster, which was later granted a licence from the government while he was leader.
However, he escaped a bribery charge over allegations he had taken the redecoration and refurbishment of the apartment as a kickback, after the jury failed to reach a decision on that count.
Tang was also acquitted on another misconduct charge, which alleged he had failed to declare that an architect he proposed for a government award had been employed as an interior designer of the flat.
He was granted bail and expected to return to court on Monday. Misconduct carries a maximum of seven years in prison and a fine.
The former chief executive stood stern as he heard the verdict before turning slightly to look at his wife.
Dressed in a suit and his trademark bow tie, he emerged from the court with his wife and family, looking sombre after the verdict was handed down. He gave no initial comment to media.
Tsang held the leadership post of chief executive for seven years from 2005.
The jury heard two conflicting accounts of Tsang’s character during the six-week trial.
The prosecution painted him as a greedy, two-faced liar who had used his public position to collude with rich businessmen for personal gain, while the defence claimed he was a “straightforward” man, who had given 45 years of unbroken service to Hong Kong and had no reason to ruin his “glittering” career by accepting a bribe.
In 2012, Tsang apologised for separate allegations that he accepted inappropriate gifts from business friends in the form of trips on luxury yachts and private jets.
Tsang’s former deputy Rafael Hui was jailed for seven-and-a-half years in 2014 after being found guilty of taking bribes from Hong Kong property tycoon Thomas Kwok.
Hong Kong’s unpopular current leader Leung Chun-ying — who will step down in July — also faces allegations of corruption over receiving a reported payment of HK$50 million (S$9.13 million) from Australian engineering firm UGL before he took office. AGENCIES