Thousands of Lehman cases dumped
The police have stopped investigations into all but five of the thousands of complaints over sales of Lehman Brothers financial products.
The Commercial Crime Bureau did not have sufficient evidence to pursue prosecution in most of the complaints, which alleged misleading sales by the now-defunct US investment bank, a spokesman said.
It decided to close the files on those cases after seeking legal advice from the Department of Justice and reviewing the evidence, he said.
'As it is considered that there is no reasonable prospect of a conviction against anyone, no criminal prosecution will be instituted,' he said.
Hong Kong investors lost billions of US dollars on minibonds guaranteed by Lehman Brothers when it went belly up in September 2008. Minibonds are not corporate bonds, but consist of high-risk, credit-linked derivatives marketed as a proxy investment in well-known companies.
The police had received about 3,100 complaints, mostly from investors claiming they had been duped into buying the bonds.
Among the reports were 39 allegations of forgery, in which 33 cases did not have enough evidence to warrant prosecution, police said. The complainants had been notified of the decision. Officers are still working on five cases.
So far, only one case has ended in conviction. A former financial services manager at Dah Sing Bank was found guilty of faking a customer's signature in sales documents for Lehman minibonds and sentenced to 200 hours of community service in November 2010.
Two employees of Bank of China (Hong Kong) were acquitted last year after being charged with misleading people into buying the financial products in April 2010. A third employee was also arrested but the charge against her was dropped.
Eddie Chan Ho-wai, convenor of the Alliance for Lehman Brothers Victims, said the police's decision was 'definitely unreasonable' and accused the force of carelessness in collecting evidence.
'They required the banks to hand in evidence by themselves, so the banks might have destroyed any evidence,' he said.