Hong Kong ex-leader Tsang charged in corruption probe

A former Hong Kong leader faces misconduct charges over a luxury apartment in mainland China, authorities said Monday, making him the highest-ranking official to be formally arrested by anti-corruption investigators in the Asian business hub.

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The city’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said Tsang had failed to publicly declare that he was in talks to lease the apartment while its owner was involved in a bid to seek a broadcasting license from Hong Kong’s government. He is set to appear in court on Monday.

The allegations date from before Tsang left office in June 2012 and concern a discounted luxury apartment rental in neighboring Shenzhen in mainland China from a wealthy friend.

The Associated Press reports that Tsang’s case is just the latest in a string of stories that have shaken the public’s confidence in officials and raised question marks about the often cosy relationship between government leaders and the wealthy.

The second charge alleged that between December 2010 and July 2011, Tsang willfully misconducted himself by failing to disclose to, or by concealing his interests in the lease of a three-storey residential property in East Pacific Garden in Shenzhen and the engagement of an architect responsible for the interior design work of that flat. He was also ordered to inform the ICAC of his travel itinerary at least 24 hours before leaving Hong Kong and not to interfere with the prosecution witnesses.

Speaking outside court, he insisted his “conscience is clear”.

After the hearing, Tsang told a throng of TV journalists gathered on the courthouse steps that he was confident he would be cleared, repeating a brief statement issued earlier by his office. “I have every confidence that the court will exonerate me after its proceedings”, he said in a statement.

“The decision to prosecute was made after careful and thorough consideration of the available evidence”, said Hong Kong’s department of justice.

Last year, Hong Kong’s former leader wrote a letter to the High Court, pleading for leniency for former chief secretary Rafael Hui, jailed for seven and half years for pocketing US$2.5 million in bribes while in office.

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The case was adjourned until November 13.

Ex-Hong Kong leader charged with corruption