Judge slams stowaway accused

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 October, 2011, 12:00am


An airport ground staff member has been convicted and another acquitted after they were accused of helping seven stowaways - including a young mainlander disguised as an elderly Caucasian - to board planes with false documents.

Chau Pak-kin, 27, was convicted in the District Court yesterday on one count of conspiracy to obtain services by deception, while Chan Wing-chung, 27, was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.

Delivering his verdict, Judge Albert Wong Sung-hau said both defendants were dishonest in their statements given to police and immigration officers.

He rejected Chau's repeated denials that he had played a role in helping the stowaways, saying he 'was not merely a bystander ... [he] could not have known anything unless he was a party'.

But the judge said that while Chan was also dishonest in giving his accounts to immigration officers and had evaded some questions, he did not make any statement that proved he had committed an offence.

The court heard that at the time the offence was committed last year the pair were ground service agents for Singapore Air Terminal Services, responsible for inspecting passengers' documents and scanning passes at the boarding gates of Hong Kong International Airport.

One case, that of the young mainlander who boarded a flight to Canada wearing a rubber mask, which he later removed, received wide publicity.

Wong said Chau's admission that he had acted on instructions from his supervisor 'Ah Doi' to turn a blind eye to illegal immigrants was a 'true confession' that he had entered into an agreement of conspiracy.

Chau told police that some time during March and April last year, when he first joined the company, Ah Doi had invited him to help with the stowaways and offered him HK$20,000 for each person smuggled. But Chau said he had rejected the offer.

He also told police that in May and October he was told on two occasions by Chan and Ah Doi to turn a blind eye to stowaway operations.

But Wong said that if Chau had rejected the invitation earlier, other members of the syndicate would not have disclosed existence of the stowaways to him later.

Wong also said Chau could not provide a reasonable explanation about deposits of an undisclosed amount into his bank account.

In mitigation, defending barrister Jacky Jim Chun-ki said Chau was a filial son and submitted two letters of support from his parents. He also said that Chau had been detained for two months during his arrest and had already learnt a lesson.

Chau was remanded in custody.

His father said outside court that he was unhappy about the ruling, but he did not answer when asked if his son would appeal.

Chan left the court without answering any questions.

The sentence is expected today.