Woman, 74, jailed for welfare fraud

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 March, 2008, 12:00am

An elderly woman who dishonestly obtained almost HK$100,000 in welfare while she owned two flats and had money in undisclosed bank accounts was jailed for four months yesterday.

Eastern Court Magistrate Abu Bakar bin Wahab adopted a starting point of 12 months in sentencing Lui Pui-yue, 74.

But he reduced the term by two-thirds because of her guilty plea, age and restitution she has made.

He ordered Lui, who earlier pleaded guilty to a count of fraud, to pay back the rest of the money by September 30.

The court heard that Lui, who started receiving welfare in late 1997, was overpaid HK$93,350 from 2003 to 2005 after she did not disclose four bank accounts with deposits totalling HK$44,936.

In numerous application reviews she claimed she had only one bank account.

The magistrate refused to accept a claim by defence counsel Chan Pak-kong that the unreported deposits came from money she had saved from her welfare payments and used to buy a HK$180,000 flat in Yau Ma Tei with a loan from a finance company.

Yesterday Mr Chan said the flat, which Lui sold last month for double the purchase price, was mortgaged against another flat in her name at Shau Kei Wan.

He asked for leniency, saying his client had suffered a stroke.

Mr Chan asked the court to consider a suspended sentence and said Lui had saved her welfare payments to make an investment rather than spend it.

But Mr Wahab said Mr Chan's claims were not supported with information he had repeatedly asked Lui to provide.

The Social Welfare Department said that if the department found anyone intentionally hiding or providing false information in their welfare application it passed the case to the police.

According to official figures, of the 520 convictions for welfare fraud since 2005, 408 involved a prison sentence.