Otto Poon, the husband of Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng, has denied knowingly carrying out illegal building works at his house in Tuen Mun without having government approval.

His lawyer, senior counsel Gerard McCoy, argued that the illegal structure concerned an outdoor pool. As such, it did not count as illegal construction work under the law, as it was not structurally attached to the house.

Otto Poon (centre). Photo: Apple Daily.

Poon, a former president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineerswas prosecuted last month. His wife Cheng was not prosecuted for illegal structures at her house, which is situated next to Poon’s. The couple’s unauthorised building works were revealed by the media in January last year.

Speaking to reporters outside the Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Courts, Poon said the case was straightforward and that he believed he could win: “The pool is a modular, free-standing pool. It was assembled with panels, and on top of the panel, we put in a plastic bag [sic] to hold the water, and that’s the construction of the pool,” Poon said.

“It was placed on the garden floor with no anchor, no pin, no nothing, and it’s not attached to the building as such, so it is not a building… that’s why I say the accusation is incorrect.”

Poon was accused of violating section 14(1) of the Buildings Ordinance.

Section 14(1) states that no person shall commence or carry out any building works without having first obtained a permit from the Building Authority. Offenders shall be liable to a fine of HK$400,000 and to imprisonment for two years if convicted. A further fine of HK$20,000 for each day would be given if the violation continues.

The pool at Otto Poon’s house (right). It has been removed. Photo: Apple Daily.

Poon said he bought the pool but did not install it himself.

Asked if Cheng had provided suggestions to him about the case, Poon said there was no need for him to speak to his wife about the case.

The case will be heard again on March 26.

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Kris Cheng

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.