Hong Kong Lawmakers Quiz Former Anti-Corruption Agency Chief

Hong Kong lawmakers adjourned a public hearing today attended by Timothy Tong, the former head of the city’s anti-graft body being investigated for corruption, expressing dissatisfaction with his answers to questions on the agency’s spending during his five-year term.

The public accounts committee of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council is reviewing a government audit report that said the Independent Commission Against Corruption should tighten control of official entertainment expenses. The ICAC said this week that it was investigating Tong after allegations that he improperly spent more than $100,000 on gifts and travel, including a HK$4,140 ($533) ornament given to the China’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate. It’s the first publicly disclosed probe against a current or former head since the ICAC was founded in 1974.

Tong’s responses to the panel today were “very cautious, to the extent that there’s no answers given in over an hour of questioning,” said Abraham Shek, lawmaker and chairman of the public accounts committee. The Legislative Council will send a summons to Tong later requesting him to appear before the panel again, he said.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier appointed a committee to review the ICAC’s spending while Tong headed the agency from 2007 to 2012. Lawmakers also said they will conduct their own review of the matter.

“There have been many media reports, many allegations involving details of many issues,” Tong told reporters after appearing before the panel. “It’s not appropriate for me to answer in detail.”

The ICAC pursued high-profile investigations under Tong, including arresting former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui and the co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. Thomas and Raymond Kwok. The three have pleaded not guilty in that case.

Transparency International ranked Hong Kong number 14 on its Corruption Perceptions Index in 2012, meaning it is considered less corrupt than the U.S., U.K. and France. China was placed 80th.