Your Tax Dollars At Work, part 2,744

Lawyers Andrew Lam and Kevin Egan are conclusively cleared of perverting the course of justice after the Court of Final Appeal respectively quashes and refuses to un-quash their previous convictions. The saga goes back six years and is a perfect example of why top legal folk deserve high salaries simply for putting up with the excruciatingly tedious and mind-numbing detail they have to deal with.

What started as a tiresome enough share-manipulation case plunged into a bog of ‘he-said she-said’ finger-pointing when the Independent Commission Against Corruption reacted badly to the lawyers’ attempts to contact, and thus publicly identify, a witness who was under the anti-graft sleuths’ protection. (Or something like that; my threshold of tolerance for explanations of legal cases that require more than one sentence is low at the best of times.) To hear the ICAC tell it, Lam and Egan had committed a terrible outrage against law and justice.

However, the graft-busters’ own behaviour also raised eyebrows. They dragged the alleged villains into custody, they raided newspapers, they produced a creepy porn-fan witness. And… they demanded that the Foreign Correspondents Club hand over Egan’s bar bill.

It was at this point that even the most casual onlooker saw that the ICAC was Trying Way Too Hard here. Lam and Egan had a history of successfully defending people against the ICAC, and it was looking personal. It possibly didn’t help that the Hong Kong government at the time was going through an extra severe bout of paranoiac bad-loser syndrome.

The outcome, after Egan did a spell in prison, is that the ICAC today end up looking even more stupid than Lam and Egan had made them look in the past. Gory artists’ impressions of a woman having acid flung in her face by her husband occupy some front pages, but the victory of what the Standard likes to call the ‘ICAC killers’ is at least Hong Kong’s number-two story this morning.

We were all brought up to believe that the ICAC is the upright and honourable law-enforcement agency that, reporting directly to the Chief Executive, keeps the Big Lychee’s playing field squeaky clean, civilized and, of course, level. That image dates back to the cleaning up of the police back in the 1970s. In modern times, however, the agency has a noticeably thin record of achievements, largely hurling the book at private-sector nonentities indulging in – and being dumb enough to get caught at – pitiful scams.

Meanwhile, some senior civil servant somewhere makes a discretionary decision or mysteriously leaves loopholes in some fine print. The floor area at Henderson Land’s Grand Promenade site in Shaukeiwan is raised from 85,720 sq meters to 135,451. Cousins of New Territories village chiefs win endless fat contracts for pointless public works projects. The New World/Urban Renewal Authority’s hulking Masterpiece in Tsimshatsui transmutes from offices, to hotel, to serviced apartments, to (unzoned-for) private residential use. And on, and on, and the ICAC is nowhere to be seen, unless it has someone’s FCC bar bill in its sites.

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6 Responses to Your Tax Dollars At Work, part 2,744

  1. Sir Crispin says:

    ICAC – I Can Accept Cash or Investigating Chinese Ancient Customs

  2. Warwick says:

    It was a great victory for the ICAC and cost the culprits millions of dollars and a lot of prison time. Well done ICAC! Now they are out so we can use them again to attract the real crooks.

  3. Maugrim says:

    Add to the list the use of the New Territories as a personal fiefdom for village chiefs in which to build illegal roads and bridges, dump building materials, store containers, magically ‘re-zone’ land and so on all without any recourse from Government Departments.

  4. Davy Jones says:

    Egan was always a thorn in the side of officialdom. I’m not a great fan of my Antipodean mates, but he has ( or had ) a very sharp legal brain and fought for the underdog and usually won. Somebody was out to get him.

    As for the ICAC, it went down the drain when one of its senior members was fired for being associated with gang members. Bertrand de Speville gave a spirited defence of the sacking in front of LEGCO. Despite the allegations of British plots and conspiracies, LEGCO agreed with the decision. The whole thing was racially motivated from the beginning.

    Generally, the lower ranks in the ICAC do a good job at getting at the lower ranks in the Civil Service and small businesses.

    The big boys? Whoa!

  5. Albert Cohol says:

    and the SCMP photo shows Egan legless even before struggling the short distance from Battery Path to the FCC Bar

  6. Kelvin says:

    The whole idea of the ICAC is based on the premise that it reports to the Governor, an individual who’s way more interested in preserving his good name in the Old Country to dabble for a few years in the bottom-feeding corruption of 1970s HK. It’s ludicrous to think it would last long once its source of authority is no longer a detached figure but a civil servant waist-deep in the muck of government.

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