Taxi driver misses out on HK$2m windfall

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 June, 2012, 12:00am


A taxi driver who found a bag containing more than HK$2 million in his cab a year ago has been told the bad news - he can't keep it. The rightful owner had belatedly stepped forward to reclaim his fortune - won at a Macau casino - and officials have now confirmed his credentials.

Police said yesterday that the Department of Justice took about six months to study the case to sort out who should get the cash - the honest taxi driver who handed in the money to police, or a local businessman who made a claim three months later.

'[The businessman] is the rightful owner. We have conducted a thorough investigation in Hong Kong and Macau,' a police officer said. The money was returned and the taxi driver informed last week, he said.

Under the Police Force Ordinance, a finder may keep lost property if no one else makes a claim within three months - unless the finder is a member of the police force.

The cabbie could have kept the money 'only if the genuine owner was not found', an officer said. 'We sought legal advice before returning the cash to the rightful owner.'

The taxi driver raised no objection to the final decision, the officer said. Police would not say whether the owner had contacted the honest cabbie or offered him a reward.

The businessman won the money at a Macau casino in the middle of last year and returned with it to Hong Kong. He took a taxi to Wan Chai but forgot his bag containing the money when he got out.

The driver found the bag full of cash and took it to Wan Chai police station, where officers said it contained more than HK$2 million.

A veteran police officer said it was probably the first time in a decade that such a huge amount of money had been found in a public place and handed in to police.

When the three-month deadline expired, the cabbie tried to claim the money but was told the investigation had not been completed. It was around this time that the owner spotted a newspaper report about the cash and went to police. He did not report the loss earlier because he never imagined anyone would return so much money, he told police.

The owner was able to give police specific details about the cash, they said. He knew exactly where and when he boarded and left the cab, the type of bag the cash was in and the material used to bind the wads of banknotes.

Police sought advice on the case from the Department of Justice late last year. Police had kept the money at their Wan Chai headquarters since the cabbie handed it in a year ago.