Police told to return seized karaoke equipment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 12:00am

Police were yesterday ordered to return the audio, video and lighting equipment that was seized from a Nathan Road karaoke bar this week.

Mr Justice Michael Hartmann granted an interim injunction ordering the police to return within 24 hours the seized items, worth about $1 million, to Sunny Great, which owns 348 Disco & Karaoke.

The judge also permitted the bar operators to challenge the legality of the search warrant issued by Magistrate Albert Wong on June 10 and of the police seizure of the audio and video equipment, musical instruments, lighting and laser apparatus from the premises on Monday.

It was the second time police had seized large quantities of electronic equipment from the karaoke bar, with the first raid authorised by a search warrant last November. After the first raid, the bar also obtained an injunction for the return of seized equipment and the two parties settled the case, with the bar paying $55,000 to the police.

According to the judicial review application filed yesterday, 348 Disco & Karaoke, at the Majestic Hotel in Yau Ma Tei, is reputedly the biggest disco and karaoke establishment in Hong Kong. It has a floor area of 21,000 square feet divided into a dancing hall and 10 karaoke rooms.

The writ says that at 2.15am on Monday, about 100 officers entered the premises, ordered customers to leave, and searched and seized a list of equipment worth about $1 million. No one was arrested.

The search warrant stated that there was a reasonable cause to suspect that the disco and karaoke bar breached various ordinances by trafficking in dangerous drugs, selling liquor without a permit and running a place of public entertainment without a licence.

The warrant authorised police to seize certain articles, including alcoholic drinks and the equipment because they were likely to be of value to the investigation.

The bar's person-in-charge, Yeung Kwun-chuen, had applied but failed to renew the establishment's liquor licence in August last year. He filed an appeal, the hearing of which was adjourned until July 31 this year.

Mr Yeung had also applied for a disco licence under the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance that came into effect on January 15 this year.

The application was turned down on March 25 and an appeal is still going on.

Barristers Philip Dykes SC and Hectar Pun, for the disco and karaoke bar, said the latest police seizure was arbitrary and unlawful because the seized items could not be of value to the investigation.

The lawyers argued that the equipment seized might be legitimately used to provide public entertainment without contravention of the Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance.

The writ also said the seizure effectively led to the bar's closure. If the seizure was done with the aim of shutting down the premises, then obtaining the warrant and executing it was an abuse of power, the writ said.