Former Hong Kong Anti-Graft Head Faulted for Liquor-Fueled Meals

Hong Kong’s former anti-corruption head Timothy Tong breached spending limits on entertainment by hosting lavish meals and traveling without approval, a government-appointed panel found.

Tong, who headed the Independent Commission Against Corruption until June 2012, exceeded the budget for more than a third of the 206 lunches and dinners he hosted, the panel said in a report today. He also began serving the Chinese hard liquor Maotai in functions during his five-year term, it said.

The report may further stoke public discontent with government officials and politicians after former Chief Executive Donald Tsang was criticized for taking trips on the private jets of tycoon friends and some lawmakers accepted free travel from Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.

“The former commissioner should have ensured that entertainments hosted by the ICAC adhered strictly to the principle of frugality, instead of frequently exceeding the ceilings himself,” the panel said. “Public officers should always be prudent when using public funds.”

Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying ordered the review after audit documents showed records of Tong’s expenses, including a HK$4,140 ($534) tiger-shape ornament. Part of the report is censored as the anti-corruption commission pursues an investigation against its former boss.

Expensive Meals

Some of the meals Tong approved were “very expensive,” according to the report. By comparison, less than 2 percent of the meals hosted by other officials at the anti-corruption commission exceeded spending limits, the panel said.

On two trips to China, Tong visited additional cities without approval, according to the report. The practice of serving hard liquor also led to public concern over whether officials should discuss matters while under the influence of alcohol, the panel said.

Last year, Tong was given Hong Kong’s Gold Bauhinia Star award for 39 years of government service. Before taking over the ICAC, he was commissioner of customs and excise and deputy secretary of security.

Set up in 1974, the ICAC is credited with tackling corruption that had been rampant in the former British colony. To ensure its independence, the commissioner reports directly to the city’s chief executive.

The anti-graft agency pursued a number of high-profile cases under Tong, including the arrest of former Chief Secretary Rafael Hui in March 2012. Hui and the co-chairmen of Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., Thomas and Raymond Kwok, have pleaded not guilty to corruption charges in that case.

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