Judge orders cash unfrozen

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 November, 1998, 12:00am

A court yesterday gave 'Big Spender' Cheung Tze-keung a $200,000 boost in his effort to fund an appeal against his mainland death penalty.

Representatives of Cheung and his wife, Law Yim-fong, asked a judge to release some of the assets frozen during a legal battle over Hong Kong's biggest cash robbery.

At the closed hearing, lawyers for the couple asked the Court of First Instance to unfreeze $1.8 million of the money to cover Cheung's legal costs. Mr Justice Frank Stock agreed to release $200,000, lawyers said.

The assets were frozen when the Republican National Bank won an injunction denying Cheung access to cash and property. The money will be used to fight both the mainland appeal and the injunction itself, lawyers said.

The bank took Cheung to court after a gang stole $167 million from its security van at Kai Tak airport in July, 1991.

The cash, in US dollars, belonged to the Republican National Bank and was due to be flown to Taiwan. Two of the three guards were bound and blindfolded. The third was forced to open the safe at gunpoint.

Cheung, 43, was found guilty of involvement in the heist, but his conviction was later quashed on appeal due to a misdirection by the trial judge. He was acquitted at the retrial. Ms Law was also acquitted of robbery. The bank launched a civil case against both of them.

On November 12, Big Spender and four of his gang were sentenced to death in Guangzhou.

The court ordered the confiscation of Cheung's assets, amounting to 662 million yuan (HK$620 million). They include cash, valuables, vehicles and properties in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

He and his gang were convicted of robbery, kidnapping and smuggling arms and explosives.