Customer lost HK$13m in bank fraud, court told

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 June, 2010, 12:00am

Terry Tong Chi-tung never imagined that ignoring a bank letter asking him to pick up a new phone-banking PIN would cost him HK$13 million. But two weeks after receiving the letter, he found his Hang Seng Bank account had been emptied, in what prosecutors say was an elaborate scam by fraudsters using a fake identity card made from a photocopy.

A horrified Tong discovered his loss, part of a HK$20 million inheritance from his father, when he visited the bank on November 16, 2007. Shares to the value of HK$13 million had been cashed in, and the money withdrawn in nine cheques drawn on his account over four days.

The first hint of trouble came early that month, when Tong received the letter asking him to collect the PIN number. He ignored it because he had not asked for one, did not use phone banking and expected the PIN to expire in 30 days if unused.

As it turned out, the District Court heard yesterday, the letter was a lot more sinister than it seemed. He received it because someone had applied for the PIN in his name, and they were later able to pick it up over the counter using the fake ID.

The story of Tong's loss was relayed in court at the start of a fraud and money-laundering trial.

Wong Kwok-yee, 35, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud Tong and the bank. He faces two alternative counts of using false instruments over the fake ID and for drawing the cheques.

Chiu Kam-san, 41, faces four counts of laundering for cashing in four cheques drawn on Tong's account, involving HK$5.5million.

The pair have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutor Isaac Tam Sze-lok said that on November 1, 2007 a man posing as Tong called Hang Seng's phone-banking hotline and asked for a chequebook. The bank officer refused because he could not provide the PIN. The man asked the officer to issue a new PIN.

Wong handed the fake ID card to a man called Wu Wing-kin, who has since absconded, Tam said. It bore Tong's personal details but Wu's photograph. He said the card had been made using a photocopy. On November 6, Wu visited the bank and collected the PIN, even though he did not have the notification letter.

A man later called the phone-banking hotline, changed Tong's address and asked the bank to post a chequebook to the new address.

Tong discovered the crime on November 16, and police stopped a cheque and recovered HK$2 million. The trial continues tomorrow before Deputy Judge Ada Yim Shun-yee.