What to do with HK$2m found in back of a taxi?
Police are in a pickle over what to do with more than HK$2 million left in the back of a cab in Wan Chai.
The best legal brains at the Department of Justice have been called in to sort out whether the money should go to the honest cabbie who handed it in or the 'Johnny-come-lately' owner of the cash.
The owner did not reappear to claim the cash, which he won at a Macau casino, until three months after the taxi driver handed it to the police. Under the Police Force Ordinance, property is returned to the finder, provided they are not a member of the police force, if no one else establishes a claim to it within three months.
'The honest cabbie can claim the money, but it appears the person who later came forward is the rightful owner,' a police officer said. 'The police may be sued by either the cabbie or the owner if we return the money to one of them. That is why we have to seek legal advice.'
Police believe the gambler is the owner because he gave many specific details about the cash.
Another police officer said: 'He was able to say the money was from Macau, the type of bag it was left in, and the material used to bind the wads of banknotes. He could also say exactly where and when he boarded and left the cab and other details.'
A police investigation found the owner won the money at a Macau casino in the middle of last year and returned to Hong Kong.
He hailed the taxi to go to Wan Chai but left his bag in the back when he got out. The driver found the bag full of cash and took it to the police station. More than HK$2 million was inside.
Police then tried to find the owner. They checked where he got out, including footage from surveillance cameras in the area. They also contacted the casino, whose name was on the bands tied around the thick wads of cash.
When the three-month deadline expired, the cabbie tried to claim the money but was told the investigation had not been completed.
It was around that time that a newspaper report about the cash caught the eye of the owner.
He told police he had never imagined anyone who found HK$2 million would return it, so he did not make a police report.
Police will not release the gambler's name or any details about him and are keeping the cash locked away at their Wan Chai headquarters.
Lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit, who is also a barrister, offers little joy to the taxi driver. He says the ordinance says property 'may' be returned to the finder if ownership is not established, and so 'the finder has no right to the property'.