Rent scam doctor is jailed for 18 months

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 June, 2011, 12:00am


A doctor was jailed for 18 months yesterday for claiming HK$2.25 million in government rent allowances on a flat he owned.

Yuen Kai-tak was also ordered to repay the money within nine months of his release from jail.

Before sentencing, Yuen produced 120 letters of support to the court, including nine from district councillors, two from his children, and many from doctors, neighbours, old classmates and relatives.

Yuen, 47, was convicted of five counts of corruption this week for deceiving Tuen Mun Hospital.

The District Court heard that he asked his friend Tang Siu-kin, also a doctor, to be the 'nominal owner' of his flat at Evergreen Villa, in Pat Heung, Yuen Long. This meant he could say he leased the flat and could claim rent under the Civil Service Private Tenancy Allowance.

However, Yuen paid the mortgage and all other expenses, and Tang never received any rental payments.

Yuen bought the property for about HK$1.6 million in 1990. Over a decade, he received more than HK$2.25 million in rent allowances.

Handing down sentence, Judge Douglas Yau Tak-hong said Yuen had carefully planned his crime in the knowledge that he was not eligible for the allowance.

But considering that Yuen would lose his job and pension, Yau said he was reducing the original sentence of two years in prison by six months.

The judge said he was particularly moved by letters written by Yuen's children and noted Yuen's contributions to the city as a doctor and pathologist, a specialist in disease.

Yuen's counsel Kevin Egan, in mitigation, had said Yuen was prepared to repay the government voluntarily, but the judge refused to accept the offer, saying it was too late.

He also refused to accept a plea in mitigation that the case had taken too long. Yuen was arrested in March 2009, charged last August and went to trial in February. 'I do not find the delay unreasonable,' the judge said.

During the trial, Tang, testifying under immunity, said the rent scam was common practice in the 1990s for civil servants.

He stopped renewing the pseudo-tenancy agreement in 2000, fearing his role would attract criminal liability. Yuen then made a company owned by other friends the new nominal owner.