Lily Chiang appeals conviction over HK$3 million scam

Businesswoman jailed for HK$3 million share scam says trial judge's reasoning was flawed in case of key witness' testimony

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 March, 2013, 4:00am

Jailed businesswoman Lily Chiang Lai-lei appealed yesterday against her conviction for a HK$3 million share-option scam.

In the Court of Appeal, lawyers for Chiang, 51, said her conviction, which resulted in a 3-1/2-year jail term, was "unsafe" because there was a "fundamental flaw" in how the District Court trial judge conducted the fact-finding exercise.

Chiang, the daughter of industrialist Chiang Chen and the first woman to chair the General Chamber of Commerce, was jailed in June 2011 for fraud, conspiracy to defraud and authorising a prospectus that included an untrue statement.

In passing sentence, Mr Justice Albert Wong Sung-hau had criticised Chiang for shaking investors' confidence in Hong Kong's financial system.

In June last year, Mr Justice Michael Lunn of the High Court dismissed Chiang's application for bail, pending yesterday's appeal.

Yesterday, Clare Montgomery QC, for Chiang, said the trial judge had erred in assessing the credibility of both Chiang and her personal assistant of 15 years, Yip Yuk-chun, who gave evidence against Chiang under immunity from prosecution.

Acknowledging that the appeal court normally would not revisit the facts found by the trial judge - and would deal only with points of law - Chiang's lawyer said this case was exceptional. "We say there is a fundamental flaw in the judge's reasoning," she said. That flaw, Montgomery said, centred on a question of timing.

In her testimony, Yip said she withdrew HK$2 million in cash from a Bank of China branch in Central and went to the lobby to give the money to Chiang, who took it into a bank vault. That whole transaction took three minutes, the court heard.

Montgomery yesterday argued that it was "impossible" to do all that in three minutes. She submitted a layout plan of the bank to the court, and said it took 43 seconds merely for a person to walk from the lobby to the vault.

In a different part of her account, Yip said Chiang entered the bank vault twice, but the judge had found that impossible to believe, Montgomery noted.

Despite that, the judge found Yip to be a credible witness, the lawyer said. Bank records showed Chiang only entered the vault once, the court heard.

Montgomery said the judge had been mistaken in finding Chiang not credible simply because he thought Yip was a credible witness.

There was a "complete failure" by the trial judge to weigh the evidence from the two women "side by side" before coming to a conclusion, the lawyer said.

Also appealing were co-defendants Tahir Hussain Shah, 45, jailed for two years for conspiracy to defraud, and Pau Kwok-ping, 54, jailed for 19 months for fraud and issuing a prospectus which featured a false statement. The case continues before Mr Justice Peter Cheung Chak-yau, Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling and Mr Justice Andrew Macrae.