Duo who promised big returns jailed
A pair of fraudsters who swindled 450 people out of HK$4 million in a pyramid scheme that promised massive returns of up to 5,500 per cent were jailed yesterday.
The District Court sentenced Tsui Chi-kin, 37, the scheme's mastermind, and his employee Lan Hung, 46, to four years and 21/2 years respectively.
The pair were convicted of a count of conspiracy to defraud customers between August 2004 and April 2005.
The court was told the pair - who claimed to work for an international company that operated an organic pig farm in Shenzhen - lured victims to invest in health products, organising meetings to promote the pyramid scheme and guaranteeing huge returns on investments.
In sentencing, District Court Judge Andrew Chan Hing-wai said: 'This present cash implanting scheme is no different from any local London silver cases,' in reference to a scam in which victims were persuaded to invest in the London silver trading market.
The court heard that most of the victims were poorly educated housewives in their 40s and 50s.
Investigation showed that more than HK$3 million was found in the account of a company called Vantage, deliberately set up by Tsui to operate the scam.
Judge Chan said that while Lan was only an employee of the company, she still played a significant role in the fraud, 'enthusiastically promoting plans' and 'actively participating in meetings held for prospective and existing members'.
'Lan was essentially the songbird singing the bright future of Vantage,' Judge Chan said, adding that the scheme would not have been operable without the assistance of Lan.
He also rejected mitigation from her defence counsel, Peter Yip, who said Lan's mother had also fallen victim to scheme, losing HK$50,000.
He said the loss did not undermine her role.
Nevertheless, considering that she did not plan the scheme, and had received less benefit, Judge Chan imposed a lesser sentence.
Commercial Crime Bureau senior inspector Brian Pau Siu-ming said outside the court that only several hundred thousand dollars remained in Tsui's safe deposit box at the time of the pair's arrest.