Executive Director of Asia Television (ATV) Nick Ip Ka-po is facing 102 counts of failing to pay wages on time, with the charges involving two dozen employees and HK$1.13m in unpaid salaries.
Both the prosecution and the defence made their closing statements before Magistrate Cheung Kit-yee at Sha Tin law courts on Tuesday. The judgment will be handed down on November 27 at the District Court.
The prosecution criticised the defendant’s argument that he was not responsible for the problem of paying wages, saying that as the sole executive director of the company Ip was responsible for the operations of the station.
ATV had heavily relied on investor Wong Ching to fund the payment of its staff, and although Ip knew that Wong was pulling out he did not make use of ATV’s property assets or look for new investors to ensure that employees’ salaries would be paid. Instead, Ip continued to run the station as usual, incurring heavier debts each month.
The prosecution said that Ip had acquiesced in allowing ATV to delay the payment of staff deliberately and without a reasonable excuse. Ip had “turned a blind eye” to the situation, they said, which at least constituted negligence.
The defence argued that if ATV had decided to cease operations employees would only have received part of their salaries back, whereas under Ip’s leadership they eventually recovered their salaries in full.
ATV failed to pay wages to its employees from September to December 2014. In March 2015, the government announced that, after 58 years, it would not be renewing ATV’s free-to-air licence when it expires in April 2016.
In September 2015, the station announced that a mainland China-based investor was buying 52.41 percent of shares in the company and would inject HK$5.1 billion in the future. Despite this, however, it has been reported that only 80 percent of staff have received their August pay cheques.