Friday, July 8, 2011

TVB actress 'could not refuse' mall event

Reprinted from SCMP-July 8

Charmaine Sheh felt she had to attend book launch at centre of Stephen Chan corruption case because request came from the TVB boss

Star TVB actress Charmaine Sheh Sze-man said she had to show up at an event at a shopping mall even though she was not paid because the request came from TVB's top executive Stephen Chan Chi-wan, the District Court heard yesterday.

"Without any remuneration, I did not want to attend [the event]. But as it was a request by Mr Chan, I could not refuse," TVB's best-actress-award winner said in a statement read at the corruption and fraud trial of TVB general manager Chan and his two co-accused.

The reading of Sheh's statement meant that she and four other actresses - Tavia Yeung Yi, Sharon Chan Man-chi, Skye Chan Sin-yeung and Shirley Yeung Sze-ki - would not be called to give evidence in court, under an agreement between defence lawyers and the prosecution.

That left actor Wayne Lai Yiu-cheung as the only artist to give evidence in person at the high-profile trial. The former TVB best actor award winner testified in his brief appearance in court that he took part in the events to support Chan.
Wayne Lai

Chan, 51, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring with his former personal assistant Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun to receive HK$112,000 in bribes and defrauding TVB. The pair deny cheating the five actresses out of HK$300,000 in commission, through a firm owned by Tseng, by denying them the chance to earn appearance fees.

Tseng and Wilson Chan Wing-shuen, 63, head of business development for TVB's marketing and sales division, have also pleaded not guilty to defrauding the television station of HK$550,000.

The court heard that Chan and Tseng had asked the actresses to "show their support" at an event to mark the launch of a book by Chan, which took place at the Olympian City 2 shopping mall in West Kowloon on February 7 last year.

They claimed the profits would go to charity - but did not mention that the event had attracted a HK$300,000 sponsorship package from a jewellery company, all of which went to a company run by Tseng.

In her statement to the court, Sheh said: "All along, I thought it was an event organised by TVB. If it was not a request by Mr Chan, definitely, I would not have attended [the event]." She said she normally charged an appearance fee of at least HK$40,000 for each event.

The court heard that Chan had asked TVB executive producer Mui Siu-ching to rearrange Sheh's schedule to free her up for the book launch. Sheh had been shooting a drama for the channel.

"Mui told me that as it was a direct request by Chan, she must release me," Sheh said.

Tavia Yeung said in her statement that she had told the Independent Commission Against Corruption she had not come under any pressure from Chan to waive her normal charge of HK$40,000 to HK$50,000 for the function.

Shirley Yeung said in her statement: "Mr Chan is a top executive. I am happy to show my support for him." She also said that TVB would charge organisers of commercial events for appearances by artists under its management. She would not have agreed to attend the event without receiving any money if it were not for Chan or TVB's participation.

In his brief testimony, which lasted for less than 30 minutes, Wayne Lai said he did not know much about who had organised or sponsored events.

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