Socialite to serve her jail sentence

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 July, 2007, 12:00am

Disgraced socialite Mo Yuk-ping will serve out her jail sentence after the city's highest court rejected her attack on the legality of the law under which she was convicted.

The Court of Final Appeal yesterday ruled that the law underlying the charge of conspiracy to defraud was sufficiently clear to satisfy both the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights.

It had been argued by Mo's counsel, British barrister Clare Montgomery QC, that the offence was so broad and could catch so many otherwise legitimate practices that it violated constitutional protections against arbitrariness, as well as the requirement for legal certainty.

Mo was found guilty in January last year of two counts of conspiracy to defraud possible investors and jailed for two years on each.

She successfully appealed against one of those charges and the Court of Appeal granted leave for her to argue her case on the second in the top court because of the public importance involved in determining the constitutionality of the offence. But the top court was unconvinced that the current offence of conspiracy to defraud, as it related to Mo's case, violated people's rights.

Ms Montgomery had suggested the concept of dishonesty was not sufficiently defined, but the court disagreed.

'Although dishonesty in its ordinary sense does not lend itself to definition, it is not an arbitrary standard and a citizen should have little difficulty in appreciating what is dishonest judged by the standards of reasonable and honest people,' Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang wrote.

The generality of the charge was necessary, given the boundless imagination of potential wrongdoers, the court said.

'There is no limit to the ingenuity of fraudsters in engineering novel means of defrauding others,' the chief justice said.

'This ingenuity leads to the conclusion that the enactment of specific offences is not an adequate safeguard unless they are accompanied by a general offence.'