Pair guilty of HK$4 million scam

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2007, 12:00am

A pair of swindlers were convicted of defrauding 450 people out of HK$4 million using a pyramid scheme that promised returns of up to 5,500 per cent.

Tsui Chi-kin, 37, the scheme's mastermind, and Lan Hung, 46, were found guilty in the District Court of conspiracy to defraud customers between August 2004 and April 2005.

Three co-defendants were acquitted after the court was told there was doubt over the evidence against them.

The court had heard that Tsui and Lan claimed to work for an international company running an organic pig farm in Shenzhen. Tsui was the head of the company, Vantage International Development, which organised conferences to promote its pyramid scheme.

Victims were persuaded to invest in health products, including air fresheners, essential oils, shampoos and pillows, that promised high returns.

District Court Judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai postponed sentencing to March 23, pending background reports.

In his verdict, Judge Chan said Tsui had lied to his victims, exaggerating his company's prospects and revenue, since the company had no real business at all. The judge said Tsui also had lied about being advised by a lawyer called 'Ching Hung', the same name as a well-known Hong Kong barrister.

While Judge Chan noted that a prosecution witness had said Lan was extremely reluctant to explain the financial details of the scheme, she nevertheless worked with Tsui to promote the swindle.

Outside the court, Commercial Crime Bureau (Fraud) Chief Inspector Gloria Kwok Lai-han warned people to be cautious about investments that promised excessive returns. 'Fraudsters know some people want to make fast money, and they will make use of this to get people to fall for their scams.'

Police began investigating the case in 2004 following a complaint.