Mask case just one of several, court told

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 June, 2011, 12:00am


A 'well-organised syndicate' appears to have been involved in smuggling people abroad through Hong Kong airport, a prosecutor said yesterday, as two ground staff appeared in court accused of helping a young mainlander board a plane disguised as an elderly Caucasian.

Chau Pak-kin, 26, and Chan Wing-chung, 27, each deny one count of conspiracy to obtain services by deception arising from the incident, which attracted international media attention last year.

Speaking on the first day of the trial - which was later adjourned for police to collect further evidence - prosecutor Neil Mitchell said three other cases involving people attempting to get onto flights using false identities were under investigation. He said there appeared to have been 'a well-organised syndicate' operating at the time of the alleged offences. 'The syndicate was involved in the smuggling of persons to foreign jurisdictions, particularly Canada,' he said.

The disguised man flew to Canada aboard an Air Canada flight on October 29 posing as a US national.

Mitchell said the other cases occurred on May 16 and October 14 and 29 last year, some involving more than one person. The flights were also bound for Canada. The bank accounts of Chau and Chan seemed to show that they had been receiving money, he said.

The trial, due to last seven days, was adjourned after Mitchell applied for time to obtain immigration records, additional witness statements, and bankers' affidavits about the two defendants' bank accounts.

It will now go before another judge on Friday to set a new trial date.

Barristers Jacky Jim Chun-ki, for Chau, and Leung Chun-keung, for Chan, objected unsuccessfully to the adjournment.

Jim said the additional matters raised by Mitchell should have been investigated and clarified long ago.

Of the other matters that Mitchell sought to raise, Jim said he did not know whether the prosecution had hard evidence in hand about them or whether it was pure speculation.

Deputy Judge Amanda Woodcock said she understood why the defence would object but agreed that the type of evidence Mitchell sought was vital and relevant to the charges and granted the adjournment. Chau and Chan were granted bail.