Counting the cost of agonizing $40m struggle

Top News | Jane Cheung 27 Jun 2019

Donald Tsang should be able to claim back some of the HK$40 million he spent on his long legal battle after winning the appeal, but he could not claim even one dollar compensation for the months in jail.

He will get more than HK$80,000 a month from his civil servants' pension, said former lawmaker Albert Ho Chun-yan, who had written a letter of mitigation for the city's second leader.

Ho said Tsang would not receive any compensation for the 12-month jail sentence he completed despite the Court of Final Appeal acquitting him and squashing his sentence.

"There's no compensation for that in criminal cases, unless the prosecution was an unlawful one. But it's not the case in Tsang's situation," he said.

"But he should be able to get back the court costs - at least most of them - from the two appeals," he said, referring to his first appeal at the High Court's Court of Appeal and the ultimate appeal at the Court of Final Appeal.

However, Ho said Tsang spent more than half his savings - more than HK$10 million - on the trial at the Court of First Instance, which is unlikely to be returned to him.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said as a long-term friend and previous subordinate of Tsang she was glad to hear that Tsang won his appeal.

Henry Tang Ying-yen, who was the chief secretary for administration when Tsang headed the SAR, said he welcomed the court's decision.

"It's a relief because he and his family have suffered for seven years because of this," he said. "He even went to jail twice. The sentence was obviously a miscarriage of justice."

Anson Chan Fang On-sang, who was the chief secretary for administration when Tsang was the financial secretary, said she was happy for Tsang and his family that his name was finally cleared.

"For a certain period of time, he was tortured mentally and physically," said Chan. "I hope they can turn a new page and enjoy the later phase of their lives."

She said she would celebrate with Tsang when he returns to Hong Kong from his family trip.

Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, cardinal of the Hong Kong Catholic Church, said Tsang told him he spent a considerable sum on the court case but insisted on clearing his name.

"It was a difficult time for him. He has learnt a lot, but all of this shall become history," he said.

A spokesman of the Civil Service Bureau refused to comment on individual cases but said the bureau has always handled retirement arrangements of civil servants according to the Pensions Ordinance.

The bureau earlier said if a retired civil servant commits a crime in relation to the public office and that offence has greatly damaged the image of public services, the chief executive may suspend or reduce such person's pension.

However, it is understood that such a decision about the pension is made only after legal procedures have ended, including appeals.

Therefore, Tsang's pension has not been and will not be suspended.

As an ex-chief executive, Tsang also enjoys life-long benefits including the provision of vehicles, offices and secretaries from the government, and is guarded by the police VIP protection unit.

He is also entitled to use the VIP lounge at the airport and have permanent medical and dental coverage.

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