School chief denies swindling parents' cash
A former school supervisor denied cheating parents into lending money to secure places for their children.
Carman Liang Shuk-ching, 46, allegedly told them the cash was needed to fund a merger with an international school, without which their children would not have a place for the next year.
She denied two counts of fraud involving a total of HK$450,000 in the District Court yesterday.
A further charge of fraud, involving HK$100,000, was dropped when the prosecution offered no evidence.
The court heard Liang was supervisor of the Pegasus Philip Wong Kin Hang Christian School in Kwun Tong at the time of the offences, between April and June 2007. She allegedly claimed the school needed to raise money to buy the Tsuen Wan site of the Sear Rogers International School as a prerequisite for a merger.
The prosecution said the parents knew their children would not have a place in Form Four if the merger did not go ahead. At the time, Pegasus ran classes only up to Form Three.
The merger fell through one month after the first group of Pegasus students began their studies at the Sear Rogers site in September 2007.
Senior Public Prosecutor Derek Lai Kim-wah said the prosecution intended to prove Liang lied to the parents to get them to loan money to the Pegasus Social Service Christian Organisation. The money ended up in the personal account of Liang, who was a co-signatory on the organisation's account, and her husband.
'It was not a prerequisite to buy the [Tsuen Wan] school premises for the merger,' Lai said in response to questions raised by Deputy District Judge Don So Man-lung.
One parent, Lee Chiu-kwan, lent HK$250,000 while another, Tam Chi-shuk, loaned HK$200,000.
Lai said Liang also told Tam that students at Sear Rogers had purchased debentures, which would have to be repaid. He added: 'It was untrue that Liang, acting for Pegasus, needed to pay students of Sear Rogers their debenture money. It was because, in over 20 years of establishment, [Sear Rogers principal] Pei Chen Chi-kuen never told students to buy debentures.'' Francis Cheng, counsel for the defence, said Liang denied she told parents about debentures in the circumstances alleged by the prosecution.
'The prosecution [comment] was out of context,' he said. The defence told the court that a deal had been agreed for Pegasus, a Direct Subsidy Scheme primary-cum-junior secondary school, to acquire the Sear Rogers school premises.
It would pay HK$50 million in three instalments, starting with a HK$200,000 deposit, followed by a payment of HK$2 million in 2007 with the rest funded by a mortgage.
'But after the new school year started in September  ... the negotiation collapsed and the students are forced to leave,' Cheng said. More than 10 former Pegasus pupils who failed to win a Form Four place at another school took classes at rented premises in a shopping mall for a year.
The Pegasus organisation withdrew its sponsorship of the school in 2009, and it has since been taken over by the Fukien Chamber of Commerce Education Fund and renamed the Fukien Secondary School Affiliated School.
The trial continues today.