Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau (IACM) President Raymond Tam Vai Man told the Court of First Instance (TJB) yesterday that he had nothing to gain by delaying the submission of documents relating to a burial plot case to the Public Prosecution Office (MP), nor any reason to protect his superior.
Tam, who has been suspended from his job since June, the bureau’s vice president Lei Wai Nong, the bureau’s Department of Environment, Hygiene and Licensing Chief Fong Vai Seng and the department’s head of cemetery affairs Siu Kok Kun all stand accused of misfeasance in the case. Their trial started yesterday.
The burial plot case was brought up by Paulina Santos, a lawyer and former government employee, and was tried at the Court of Final Appeal (TUI) in June which ruled that Secretary for Administration and Justice Florinda Chan Lai Man did not violate any laws in the case that dates back to 2001.
The IACM is part of Chan’s portfolio.
Santos then filed a complaint to the Public Prosecution, alleging that Tam and his subordinates had intentionally delayed the transfer of documents that prevented the prosecutors to investigate in the case.
Tam, exuding confidence, told the court that he “didn’t violate the law”.
“I definitely don’t admit [to the accusation on the charge sheet]. I never intended to delay it, I had no motive to do so, I didn’t approve the burials plots and I have no direct or indirect gains from the whole thing,” Tam said, adding that he had neither ordered his subordinates to delay the transfer of documents nor had he been in the position to do so.
“We tried to find those documents for other purposes in 2003, 2004 and 2009 and we couldn’t. How could I have delayed the transfer of documents when we didn’t have the documents,” Tam said, later saying that he did not protect his superior by doing so when asked by Paulo Chan.
Tam explained that since the original copies of 10 burial plot application letters, which the Public Prosecution Office had requested from the IACM in March, April and May 2010, were filed in the archives of the bureau’s Department of Environment, Hygiene and Licensing, he passed the Public Prosecution Office’s requests on to his subordinates to search there, but the application letters could not be found.
It wasn’t until the Public Prosecution Office stopped requesting the original copies of the application letters but asked the IACM in June 2010 just to provide receipts and other information relating to the burial plots that they found the original letters in the files of the bureau’s Department of Finance and Information Technology.
Tam said he subsequently transferred the original letters, receipts and other documents relating to the 10 burial plots application to the Public Prosecution Office.
Santos, who is a joint plaintiff in the trial, raised doubts about the authenticity of the “original copies” of the burial plot documents and asked the court to add this “fact” to the charge sheet.
“I can tell immediately when I look at them that they are fake,” Santos said, later saying to Tam: “I’m not saying you falsified them, there could be a third party and we’ll deal with that later.”
Presiding Judge Lam Peng Fai told Santos if there was document fraud, that would be dealt with in a separate case. Lam also said the court had no decision yet as to whether the documents needed authenticating as the Public Proseuction Office had already done so when it received them.