Stephen Chan found not guilty of corruption charges

Updated: 2011-09-03 06:52

By Guo Jiaxue (HK Edition)

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 Stephen Chan found not guilty of corruption charges

Surrounded by journalists, TVB General Manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan, wearing signature smile, walks out of the District Court on Friday. Edmond Tang / China Daily

District Court rules hosting gala not part of TVB general manager's regular duties

TVB General Manager Stephen Chan Chi-wan walked away unscathed on Friday after a lengthy trial on corruption and fraud charges.

Chan and two other defendants, Director of Idea Empire Advertising and Production Company Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun and TVB's former head of business development Wilson Chan Wing-suen, were found not guilty of all charges.

Stephen Chan had been charged with wrongfully concealing from TVB a HK$112,000 payment he had received from Olympic City for hosting a talk show program at a 2009 countdown gala for Chinese New Year. The gala at the shopping mall was produced by TVB.

Chan was also accused of cheating five TVB artists, by persuading them to appear at the launch of his book without paying them compensation.

District Court Judge Poon Siu-tung accepted the argument of Chan's lawyer Joseph Tse Wah-yuen that Chan attended the countdown show as a "celebrity", but not as an "agent" of TVB.

Poon said Chan's performance didn't harm TVB's business. On the contrary, the judge said, Chan helped the company fulfill its contract with the shopping mall.

A general manager's duty does not include performing, Poon added.

Though the principal prosecution witness, Mark Lee Po-on, TVB's group general manager, said he doesn't recognize Chan's different roles, he did agree, under heavy cross-examination by Tse, that Chan was not required to host the countdown show as a condition of his employment with TVB.

Lee had testified that Chan received the money behind the company's back.

But the judge said TVB "could not be so naive as to think" that the shopping mall didn't pay Chan.

Poon also ruled Chan was not guilty of persuading TVB artists into participating in a commercial activity without compensation.

The judge rejected TVB executive Virginia Lok Yee-ling's testimony against Chan that she would not approve such "free support".

Poon said the company "has no policy at all" on approving "supporting" applications.

He said the prosecution also failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Chan was aware of an agreement between the sponsor, a jewelry company, and the organizer of the book launch, Idea Empire Advertising and Production Company.

The high-profile trial, nonetheless, exposed TVB's "dirty laundry" in court as Tseng's lawyer, Wong Ching-yue, described in his closing statement.

The judge aimed direct criticism at the company in handing down judgment.

He said it's hard to understand that TVB, as a listed company, actually has arrangements like "supporting bosses".

"A listed company is not a club for major shareholders," Poon said, adding artists are valuable assets of the company.

Poon also indicated that the employment relationship between TVB and Chan doesn't meet the legal standard, since the contract has never been renewed since 1995.

A public company should be very strict about that, he said.

Chan, emerging from the District Court, expressed thanks to his "excellent lawyers" and Wong Hei, a TVB artist who has been in court every day of the trial to support him.

Wong reportedly will not be renewed after September.

Chan and the other two accused were arrested in March 2010 in a high-profile operation waged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

He later resumed his duties as TVB's general manager in November, but was not allowed to handle artist management.

The ICAC said it will study the verdict before deciding if to take any further action.

TVB issued a statement saying it respects the judgment.

guojiaxue@chinadailyhk.com

China Daily

(HK Edition 09/03/2011 page1)