Blackmail trial put off after accused appears without lawyer
Austin Chiu and Elaine Yau
The trial of a woman accused of being a conspirator in the blackmail of a member of a religious group over gay sex was postponed for more than two months yesterday.
Li Dora Kay, 59, told the court that she lacked legal representation at the last minute. Her trial was due to start in the District Court yesterday. But Li said her lawyer was Shahmim Khattak, who is currently engaged in the ongoing trial of high-profile businesswoman Lily Chiang Lai-lei.
Deputy District Judge Anthony Kwok Kai-on said the case was complex and adjourned it to June 23 so she could have proper legal representation. The court has barred any reporting of the religious group or the victim's identity.
Li was charged with two counts of conspiracy to blackmail. She allegedly schemed with Cheung Ka-wo to extort more than HK$6.3 million from the victim and the head of his religious group between April and May 2009.
Cheung, 28, a doctoral student in economics at Chinese University, was jailed for four years after he was convicted of conspiring with Li to blackmail the victims. Before adjourning the case, the judge suggested Li change her defence counsel so as not to delay her trial.
'It's already half a year since the case went to the District Court last September,' he said. 'The case involves many witnesses. It would be unfair to them if they need to recall things that happened such a long time ago.' Kwok said it was unfortunate that Khattak had to handle another case, but Li had to deal with it. Kwok said it would also be undesirable for Li to represent herself, as her case involved complex legal matters.
Li insisted that she be defended by Khattak. 'He has been helping me since I was arrested by police,' she said. 'I trust him.'
In adjourning the case, Kwok said to Li: 'Don't be unwise and carry a big briefcase to the court with you next time, saying you will defend yourself. You have to take responsibility for all the consequences.
'It would be undesirable for you to be without legal representation. But the trial will start anyway if you still don't have a lawyer next time,' Kwok said.
Kwok stressed that he adjourned the trial because it involved complex legal matters and not because of Li's persistent desire to be represented by Khattak.
Public prosecutor Robert Lee Kan-yung said that the delay affected 18 witnesses, including bank officers, police officers and transcription officers involved with video evidence concerning the case.