- Magistrate says ICAC fails to prove that HK$150,000
was paid to Gwee in relation to the handling of former Singfor boss' accounts
at the bank
- Money was for purchase of rare wines, says defence
- Bank transfer hardly a clandestine corrupt payment
SINGAPORE - Media OutReach - 29 November 2018 - A
magistrate court in Hong Kong has acquitted former Standard Chartered Bank
(SCB) private banking head Ryan Gwee Yuan Kerr of a bribery charge brought by
the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Magistrate Lam Tsz-kan of Hong Kong's
Eastern Magistrates' Courts dismissed the ICAC charge on 9 October 2018 after a
Mr Gwee, who is now Co-founder and CEO
of private equity firm Asia Capital Pioneers Group (ACPG), said: "It is a huge
relief to be cleared of this baseless charge. While I was always confident that
the ICAC case would be dismissed, it was still no joy to have to defend myself
against a false and serious accusation, and to have to live with this terrible uncertainty
for 10 months.
"Nevertheless, I am grateful to
everyone who stuck with me during this period, including my family, friends,
colleagues, clients and business associates. I know who they are and will
always be there for them as they were for me."
Mr Gwee, who worked with Standard
Chartered Bank (SCB) in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai for more than a
decade, was Managing Director and Head of Private Banking for China before he left
in 2011 to set up an investment firm which has been reorganised to become ACPG,
which provides consultancy to family offices on investments and philanthropy.
Seven years later, in January 2018,
following the conviction of Teng Wen-Chung, former Chairman of Taiwanese
insurance company Singfor Life Insurance Ltd, for embezzlement, the ICAC
charged Mr Gwee for being an agent in accepting an advantage. Mr Gwee was
alleged to have accepted HK$150,000 in August 2011 in relation to the handling
of Teng's accounts and those of his companies' accounts at SCB.
During last month's court hearing, Mr
Gwee's lawyer, Senior Counsel Peter Duncan submitted that his client had no
case to answer. He said the ICAC had failed to produce evidence to show that
the HK$150,000 was paid to Mr Gwee in relation to the handling of Teng's and Singfor's
accounts with the bank, including securing approval for an increase to US$100
million in credit to them.
Mr Duncan said the prosecution was
unable to provide a focused and consistent explanation for why the money was
paid. While Mr Gwee did not deny receiving the money, he maintained it was a
payment for rare wines that he had bought on Teng's behalf.
Mr Duncan also noted that "bribes are
invariably paid in a clandestine manner. This was not the case here -- a
transfer between banks which was easily traceable. It does not make sense that
a seasoned banker such as Mr Gwee would have permitted such a traceable and
The ICAC, Mr Duncan argued, built its
case on certain perceived irregularities surrounding the opening of Teng's and
related company accounts, and credit advanced to them.
However, Magistrate Lam agreed that Mr
Gwee played no part in the opening of the accounts, which was assigned to the
relationship management team. Moreover, the credit facilities to Teng and his
companies were approved by the bank's relevant committees and there was no
evidence to show that Mr Gwee knew about the ownership of the collateral for
the loan, or that he was concealing any information from the bank.
The Magistrate also noted that the
alleged HK$150,000 bribe was transferred nine months after the approval of the
credit facility to Teng and his companies. The bank transfer, he added, also militated
against the allegation of a bribe.