White powder sent to bank

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 June, 2010, 12:00am

A victim of the Lehman Brothers' collapse stood trial at Kwun Tong Court yesterday for sending a letter containing white powder to the Bank of China. Wong Wai-ming, 28, pleaded not guilty to criminal intimidation.

At the time, he worked as a teller at the Bank of East Asia. He now distributes flyers and does odd jobs.

The powder, which Bank of China operations officer Lau Kwun-sing thought was a biochemical substance, turned out to be cornflour.

Wong told the court that he had received a letter from the Bank of China on August 11 about the repurchase scheme for Lehman products.

The compensation came as a general offer to investors from banks after billions of dollars of losses on Lehman minibonds, a type of derivative investment marketed in Hong Kong by brokers and banks. Minibonds are not corporate bonds, but consist of high-risk, credit-linked derivatives. They are marketed as a proxy investment in well-known companies. Wong, who had invested HK$40,000 in 2005, returned a signed form to the bank agreeing to the repurchase arrangement.

Seventeen pieces of sticky tape were used to seal the envelope, government chemist Dr Dao Kwok-leung told the court. Prosecutor Isaac Tam Sze-lok argued that Wong had used that much tape to ensure that the powder remained inside.

But Wong said the cornflour had been spilled by his mother. Wong put the envelope under a tap to seal it. Asked why he had used so much tape, Wong said: 'It was all wet and I just wanted to seal it.'

Wong's lawyer, Kevin Li Kai-fung, said the defendant only lost HK$16,000 after agreeing to the scheme. And by joining it, he had agreed to not making further claims against the bank. There was nothing else that Wong could seek to warrant intimidating bank staff, Li said.

Although Wong had crossed out the letterhead, he had only done so because he was hesitant about accepting the bank's offer, he said.

Magistrate So Wai-tak will return a verdict on July 9.