Police asked to probe failed ferry operator

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 2011, 12:00am

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A Democratic Party lawmaker yesterday asked police to investigate newly bankrupt ferry company Macao Dragon for suspected fraud.

Macao Dragon was still offering tickets for sale over the counter at noon on Wednesday, just hours before the company announced it was filing for bankruptcy, according to a report to police made by legislator Fred Li Wah-ming, in a complaint supported by members of his party's consumer rights policy group.

Provisional liquidators Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu confirmed that Macao Dragon was estimated to owe creditors more than HK$10 million, including wages and compensation for 150 workers and 160,000 unused tickets.

Of the outstanding tickets for which Macao Dragon was unable to provide a service, 150,000 were bought through online group-buying sites Beecrazy and Groupon HK and Macao Dragon's online site. The remained were bought via other outlets, including Macao Dragon's own counters.

Beecrazy, which sold tickets until Sunday, stated that all money would be fully refunded to its customers. The cheque from Beecrazy to Macao Dragon was not cashed, according to the provisional liquidators.

Groupon HK also stated that all its affected customers would be fully refunded.

Lawmaker Ip Wai-ming, from the Federation of Trade Unions, estimated that the company owed staff more than HK$5 million.

'We are talking to the labour department and hoping to set up a meeting with the liquidators and Macao Dragon's owners for sometime next week,' Ip said.

Li Chi-wai, chairman of the Hong Kong Seamen's Union, feared for the 66 former employees - including ferry captains, sailors and staff - who may not be covered by the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund because they were not employed as local labourers and were not protected under the local employment ordinances.

'We will ask the government to [pay] at least a part of the [outstanding wages and compensation] to those not protected by [the insolvency fund],' Li said.

He also called for the reform of labour laws related to seamen.

'Even though there are only around 1,000 seamen in Hong Kong, they should be entitled to labour law protection too,' he said.