Ex-Skyworth chiefs get six years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 July, 2006, 12:00am

Judge sets aside pleas from key figures and his own feelings in sentencing Wong brothers

Two former top executives of Skyworth Digital Holdings, one of China's biggest television makers, were yesterday sentenced to six years' jail for the theft of $70 million in cash and stock options from the Hong Kong-listed firm.

Judge Stephen Geiser told the District Court that Skyworth's non-executive chairman, Stephen Wong Wang-sang, 49, and his younger brother, former executive director Wong Pui-sing, 38, had committed serious crimes involving 'an enormous amount of money'.

He said that while he was moved by the letters of support for the brothers from influential business figures and government officials - and the fact that he did not feel good about sentencing a man who had 'built Skyworth up to its present state' - the offences were 'the most serious of commercial crimes'.

The court earlier found the Wong brothers guilty of conspiring with their mother, Lo Yuk-ying, and Wong Pang - a man employed by Ms Lo to carry out minor clerical duties - to steal more than $48 million from Skyworth Digital and $2.2 million from Skyworth Computer and Network between 2000 and 2004.

The brothers were also found guilty of conspiring with Ms Lo to defraud Skyworth by exercising 18.75 million stock options worth about $20 million.

In addition, Stephen Wong was convicted of conspiring with Ms Lo to steal $500,000 from Skyworth (Group).

The brothers were found guilty of three joint offences - two of conspiracy to steal and one of conspiracy to defraud. Stephen Wong was further convicted of one count of conspiracy to steal.

Judge Geiser said the maximum penalty for stealing was 10 years, while the fraud charges carried a maximum of 14 years' jail. Both men showed no emotion as the sentences were handed down.

In mitigation yesterday, their defence counsels said the Wong brothers came from humble backgrounds and both had made a significant contribution to charity and could count on Hong Kong legislator Philip Wong Yu-hong, Sina Corp chairman Duan Yongji and head of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, Huang Mengfu, among their supporters.

They added that many of Skyworth's Shenzhen staff, including managers and technicians, were in the courtroom to show support for the brothers.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption launched an investigation after the two men were arrested in November 2004. The company's shares were suspended for more than a year during the probe. Skyworth Digital stock fell 3.57 per cent to 81 cents yesterday.