The Independent Commission Against Corruption has rejected claims from a lawmaker that the agency has internal guidelines restricting investigators from using mandatory powers stipulated in law – including search and seizure of offices and flats – in cases involving the Chief Executive.

“The ICAC treats every single corruption case equally in investigations, and will decide whether to use the mandatory power stipulated in the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, according to the needs of the investigations and whether there were legal grounds,” a spokesperson for the agency told HKFP.

The ICAC will ask for legal advice from the Department of Justice if necessary, the spokesperson added.

ICAC Leung Chun-ying
Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK/Wikimedia Commons.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun said earlier on Tuesday that sources at the anti-graft agency told him such guidelines prevented investigators from exercising mandatory powers stipulated in the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance.

To said he was shocked by the revelation, and that the guidelines could be an explanation for the slow progress in the investigation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s secret HK$50m payment from Australian engineering firm UGL.

According to sources cited by the Democratic Party earlier, Leung’s office and the Executive Council did not reply to the ICAC’s enquiries for a year.

Rebecca Li Dale Ko
Rebecca Li and Dale Ko.

Rebecca Li Bo-lan, the acting Head of Operations at the watchdog, was recently removed from her acting position and she ultimately resigned. She was involved in investigating Leung’s case.

The spokesperson said the ICAC generally will not comment on individual cases according to its policy.

Dale Ko, a highly praised principal investigator at the agency, also tendered his resignation following Li’s incident. The reason for his resignation is not yet known.

But Lam Cheuk-ting, Democratic Party chief executive and a former ICAC investigator, said the timing raised questions as Ko had a promising future at the agency.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.