Hutchison Whampoa

Limit on sales of baby milk formula 'not enforced'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 July, 2012, 12:00am

A ParknShop operations support manager admitted in Kwun Tong Court yesterday that the supermarket's policy of selling each customer only three cans of baby milk formula was only loosely enforced.

Eric Lo is a witness in the trial of five people who have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud and bribery in relation to the sale of baby milk formula.

A Watson's supervisor, 40-year-old Lau Koon-hung, who was charged with accepting bribes, pleaded guilty.

The accused are: Wu Ka-keung, 42, Lam Kwok-fai, 36, Anson Ng Ching-kin, 32 - all managers at ParknShop; and Cheung Shiu-chor, 51, and Wu Xiankuai, 40, both traders.

The six defendants face a total of 12 counts - four of conspiracy to defraud, four of offering an advantage to an agent and four of accepting an advantage. The Independent Commission Against Corruption, which arrested them in May last year, accused the six of conspiring to collect milk formula for sale across the border.

ParknShop and Watson's are part of the A.S. Watson Group, which on March 14 last year started limiting customers to three cans of the formula a day.

Lo told Magistrate Anthony Yuen Wai-ming that the policy was to 'stabilise the stock of milk formula' when there was a shortage from suppliers.

Cheung, a parallel-goods trader who is facing the most charges among the six accused, allegedly offered a total of HK$1,600 to A.S. Watson Group employees to help him buy baby milk formula in bulk after the company policy took effect.

Cheung and Wu Xiankuai bought 4,000 cans of the formula worth a total of HK$750,000 from A. S. Watson, the court heard. It is alleged the two men are not affiliated.

Wu's lawyer, Susanna Leong, yesterday said the sales records of the three ParknShop stores where the defendants worked showed that on more than a dozen occasions, customers bought six or 12 cans of milk formula in one transaction.

Leong said that at the Tsui Chuk store in Wong Tai Sin, one customer bought 36 cans in one purchase. She asked Lo if he agreed that the policy of three cans per customer was not strictly enforced and he agreed.

One of the conspiracy charges alleges that Cheung and Wu Ka-keung, a 42-year-old ParknShop manager, generated false sales receipts to hide the large quantities of milk formula being sold to Cheung.

The trial continues today.