A former People's Liberation Army soldier who became an "expert burglar" has been sentenced to seven years' jail, the maximum in the District Court, for stealing millions of dollars worth of jewellery and cash from two industrial buildings.
Chu Shue-lung, 57, and his girlfriend Li Shuk-woon, 42 - who lived together in a luxury Mid-Levels flat - were also jointly convicted on a charge of money laundering.
Sentencing Chu, Judge Eddie Yip Chor-man said he had hurt the owners more emotionally than financially.
"Some of this stolen property was the owners' collections, or even passed down to them by family members," Yip said. "Their sentimental value far exceeded the monetary value."
The judge described Chu, also a former member of the mainland public security bureau, as an "expert in burglary", given his multiple record of such offences.
The money laundering, Yip said, involved "a lot of transactions, a long period of time, and a certain quantity of rewards".
Chu had been convicted on two counts of burglary involving 101 pieces of jewellery, including gold bracelets, necklaces, earrings and watches, and cash stolen from a canned food trading firm in Tsuen Wan and a handbag products firm in Kwun Tong in 2011. He was also convicted of going equipped for burglary and resisting arrest.
Li, a graduate of Xian University, and Chu were jointly convicted of laundering money through her personal accounts in five banks. The pair had pleaded not guilty.
Chu was jailed for four years for money laundering, two for burglary, two for going equipped for burglary and a month for resisting arrest, with some of the terms running concurrently.
Li was jailed for six years for money laundering.
The court heard that some 500 pieces of jewellery and cash, together worth HK$3.96 million, were found in Li's bank safedeposit box and in their luxury home.
Chu, who said he was unemployed, told police he bought the jewellery found in his home, but was unable to provide receipts.
Li had taught Putonghua at an education centre and earned about HK$20,000 a month.
Yip said it was impossible for her to own so many valuable items with that salary. "If she lived under a bridge, it might be slightly possible for her to buy a few pieces of jewellery. But she lived in a Mid-Levels property the rent of which couldn't even be covered by her salary," he said.