Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying has threatened to take legal action against Democratic Party members over their “unfounded” allegations surrounding a HK$50 million payment he received while in office.
Leung’s lawyers sent strongly worded letters to the Democrats on Tuesday after they launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance an international investigation into the money he received from Australian engineering firm UGL Limited.
Sent to lawmakers Lam Cheuk-ting and Andrew Wan Siu-kin, former legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan and barrister Senia Ng Sze-nok, the letters said the Democrats had made “extremely serious and unfounded allegations” against Leung for suggesting he had committed various criminal offences when he served as the city’s chief executive.
Citing the Defamation Ordinance, the letter said that what the Democrats had suggested at the press conference indicated clearly that they “intend to bring [Leung] into hatred, contempt and ridicule”.
As of midnight on Tuesday, the drive had raised more than HK$633,000 (US$80,000) of the HK$2 million target, money the Democrats plan to use to fund the search for new evidence, as well as recruit lawyers and accountants to analyse information on the case.
After Leung’s legal threat was made public, donations rose by almost HK$200,000.
Writing on his Facebook page on Tuesday, Leung warned the Democrats about the serious accusations they had made.
“I urge Lam and others … to immediately stop making relevant accusations, and I reserve the right to take legal action against them in the future,” he wrote.
Lam, however, remained undeterred on Tuesday.
“The remarks we made are reasonable, objective and are based on facts,” he said. “We have also consulted our legal team beforehand. As a lawmaker popularly returned by citizens, it is my responsibility to follow up the case. We will not budge.”
Wan called on Leung to attend a meeting on Thursday of the Legislative Council committee set up to investigate the saga to prove himself clean.
Leung was slammed by the committee for being “uncooperative” last November.
Wan also said Leung’s high-profile comments would only encourage more people to support the fundraising drive.
Leung struck his lucrative deal after UGL’s 2011 purchase of DTZ, a property services company once listed in Britain, of which he was a director.
As part of the takeover, he agreed not to form or join a rival firm and to help promote the company. He received part of the HK$50 million after becoming chief executive in 2012.
However, he did not declare any of the fee, which was agreed on before he took up the post, to the Executive Council.
On Monday, the Democrats claimed legal advice they had been given concluded that there was a prima facie case to be made against Leung – on allegations of bribery and misconduct in public office.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption has been investigating the matter since 2014.
In February, the Department of Justice said it had still not decided whether to prosecute Leung. At the time, reports had surfaced that the department was on the verge of dropping the case.
“The Department of Justice has not decided on whether to institute any prosecution in that case,” a DOJ spokesman said then. “As the case is not over yet, the department would not reveal any detail of it.”
At the time a spokesman for the ICAC said it would not comment on individual cases or media reports.