HONG KONG, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's former leader, Donald Tsang, pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of misconduct in public office, the latest in a string of scandals that have ensnared senior business and former political figures in the financial hub.
Tsang was charged with two counts of misconduct in public office in October.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption said the charges related to a rental deal for a penthouse flat in the Chinese city of Shenzhen and the nomination of an architect doing design work on the flat for a government award.
Wearing a black suit and his trademark bow tie, Tsang hesitated and turned to his lawyer when the judge asked him for his plea during a two-minute hearing.
He pleaded not guilty to both charges, and left the court accompanied by his wife without making any comment.
Tsang, 71, retired in 2012 after a high-flying career as a civil servant, serving as a senior official in the former British colonial administration and as Hong Kong's financial secretary and chief executive.
Public resentment toward Tsang centered on reports of lavish spending on overseas visits, trips with tycoons in private jet and luxury yacht, accepting a sweetheart rental deal for a penthouse in southern China, and staying in a high-roller suite at a casino resort in Macau.
His arrest comes after his close ally and a former city chief secretary, Rafael Hui, was jailed for seven and a half years, last December, in a graft case that involved the former co-chairman of Hong Kong-listed developer Sun Hung Kai Properties.
Tsang was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his public service under the British colonial administration prior to Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in 1997. His close links with the former British colonial government created unease in Beijing and among pro-Beijing elements in Hong Kong community. (Reporting by Kalum Chen and writing by Donny Kwok; Editing by Greg Torode, Robert Birsel)
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