Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng may have failed to declare the full extent of her involvement in three arbitration cases, which continued after she took up her role in the administration.
Cheng, who took office last January, received permission at the time to quickly complete six arbitration cases that she began while in private practice. However, Apple Daily reported on Friday that three arbitration cases involving Cheng were still ongoing – meaning that Cheng had either failed to declare them, or that they were incorrectly described as “nearly complete” in 2018.
Cheng denied any wrongdoing on Friday, adding that she had resigned from all private legal cases: “If there’s anyone reporting that I have not resigned from the three cases, they are wrong.”
“The cases of which there is no further involvement – or [those] that I can resign [from] without causing too much trouble to the parties – I have completely resigned,” Cheng said. “So all the cases, I have resigned.”
However, she did not specify when she resigned from the cases. Cheng also did not say if the three cases in question were among the six already declared to the government when she took office.
According to Apple Daily, the three arbitration cases were conducted at the World Bank International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and had not begun its proceedings last January. ICSID records showed that Cheng resigned from the three cases on January 9, February 7 and April 4 respectively.
For one of the disputes involving the Spanish government and a UK company, Cheng issued a signed document dated March 23 – over two months after she became Secretary for Justice.
Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said it was possible that Cheng’s actions constituted misconduct in public office.
“If the three cases are outside of the six already declared cases, then that would be concealment. That would be clearly intentional,” Lam said.
Lam said he wrote to the chief executive to ask for clarification, and also demanded that the anti-corruption watchdog, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), investigate if Cheng broke any laws.
When she assumed office, Cheng said that the income from her ongoing arbitration cases will be donated to charity, but on Friday she did not say how much she was paid.
Pro-democracy camp convenor Claudia Mo also urged Cheng to explain herself, adding that the latest news was an additional blow to the justice minister’s credibility.
“She’s been lacking credibility all this time, practically ever since she took office. And now, yet another skeleton from her closet. This is more than disheartening,” Mo told RTHK.
Cheng was appointed to the ICSID arbitration roster by the Chinese government in September 2017, with her term set to expire in 2023.
Aside from her involvement in arbitration cases, Cheng had also been under fire last year for illegal structures discovered at her Tuen Mun residence. The Department of Justice eventually decided to drop its case against her, citing insufficient evidence.
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