Hong Kong’s corruption watchdog has launched a criminal investigation of its former chief following complaints of excessive spending when giving tens of thousands of dollars in gifts to mainland Chinese and other officials.
The Asian financial center’s anti-corruption agency and the Hong Kong Department of Justice said on Tuesday there was “sufficient basis” to open an investigation into allegations of possible bribery and misconduct by Timothy Tong (湯顯明).
Tong was commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption from 2007 to last year. Following inquiries by lawmakers, the agency reported that he spent about HK$218,500 (US$28,150) on gifts during his time in office. They ranged from pens and mugs to crystal models of the agency’s headquarters.
One item worth HK$4,140 and described simply as an “ornament” was given to the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, mainland China’s chief prosecution and investigation agency, while the president of the International Association of Anti-Corruption Authorities received a HK$2,082 scarf.
The investigation adds to fears about the integrity of public officials in the special administrative region of China, which prides itself on clean government.
Tong is the latest high-profile figure to be ensnared in a corruption case. Last year, the watchdog investigated the city’s outgoing Hong Kong chief executive Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), over allegations he received yacht and private jet trips, and a luxury apartment rental from wealthy friends.
In a separate case, authorities have charged Rafael Hui (許仕仁), formerly the second-highest-ranking government official, in a corruption case that involves brothers Thomas Kwok (郭炳江) and Raymond Kwok (郭炳聯), who are billionaire property developers.
The investigation into Tong will be led by the corruption agency’s current chief, Simon Peh (白韞六).
The justice department said it has not yet decided whether Tong should be prosecuted.
Tong is expected to appear at a hearing before the legislature’s public accounts committee on Saturday to discuss concerns raised in an audit report.