Interior designer arrested for posting fake stamp duty statement online

But officers say he might not have written the release about new property cooling measures

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2013, 3:46am

An interior designer has been accused of posting a document online that claimed to be a government press release announcing new measures to rein in the property market.

Police arrested the man, 32, in Happy Valley on Thursday night.

He was released on bail pending further inquiries.

Officers seized two computers and a mobile phone. Forensic experts are now trying to ascertain whether the man wrote the press release.

The suspect is believed to have uploaded the fake document to internet forums. It was then widely circulated earlier this month, both online and via the messaging tool WhatsApp.

His motive is unknown.

The wording of the fake release mirrored a genuine government one issued last year to announce measures to curb the property market.

But the bogus document altered dates and tax rates to imply the new 15 per cent stamp duty for non-local buyers would be increased to 30 per cent.

It also claimed that, according to "internal information", the government planned to offer 10,000 long-term pre-sale contracts for flats under the Home Ownership Scheme in the first quarter, and fuelled speculation about a ban on mortgages for anyone who owns two homes.

Some media reports have suggested the creator of the fake release was an estate agent trying to encourage people to buy property before the "new measures" come into play.

The Estate Agents Authority has received two complaints about estate agents allegedly sharing a fraudulent press release online. "The EAA has been in contact with the police and will provide assistance when necessary," the authority said.

"The EAA reminds all estate agents again that the provision of false information will adversely affect the trade's image.'

Anyone who accesses a computer with criminal or dishonest intent can be jailed for up to five years under the Crimes Ordinance.