Exco holds firm over Lam leave amid ICAC probe

Top News | Eddie Luk 5 Nov 2012

Two Executive Council members said yesterday it is appropriate for Franklin Lam Fan-keung to take leave from the decision- making body following a controversy over his sale of two flats in the Mid-Levels.

Their backing came a day after an announcement that Lam had been granted his request for a leave of absence from Exco amid an Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation of the transactions.

Lam, 51, has been under mounting pressure to step down since it emerged that he put the flats in Casa Bella on Caine Road on the market just weeks before the government announced new measures to cool residential property prices late last month.

Exco member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, who is also a lawmaker, said: "I think his request for leave is an appropriate step, pending further clarifications and the ICAC investigation. That would give him time to assemble more information to prepare more satisfactory answers, and also allow time for ICAC to look into the allegations, and if possible, give him a clean bill of health."

For his part, Barry Cheung Chun-yuen agreed with Ip on the appropriateness of the leave, but stressed it is unnecessary for Lam to resign.

Cheung said it is too early to say whether Exco's image has been undermined by the Lam controversy.

Their colleague, Cheung Hok-ming, stood even more staunchly by Lam, saying he didn't know the government would launch the new 15 percent stamp duty on non-locals and companies buying homes before selling his flats.

The furore over Lam's alleged profiting from his sales on insider news and offering extra commission to his property agent, Centaline, has escalated in the past few days.

Yesterday, Centaline Holdings chairman Sherman Lai Ming-kai refused to comment on whether graftbusters contacted his agency to get documents or contracts related to the sales of Lam's flats.

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