Businessman cheated couple out of Rolex watches by promising their son school place

Magistrate condemns businessman who cheated parents out of three Rolex watches with promise of help to get their son into top school

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 7:11am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 9:18am

A magistrate yesterday described as "despicable" the actions of a businessman who cheated a couple out of three Rolex watches by promising to help their son get into a prestigious boys' school.

Anthony Yuen Wai-ming was speaking in Kwun Tong Court as he convicted Joseph Lam Sui-kei, 52, on two counts of obtaining property by deception.

Lam had pleaded not guilty.

"The defendant deceived the parents, who were eager to send their son to the school they liked," Yuen said. "His behaviour was quite despicable."

He said Lam, a partner in an IT company, had persuaded the victims during the summer of 2012 to donate the three watches, worth HK$219,000 in total, to an auction organised by the alumni association of the Diocesan Boys' School. In return for the donation, they would receive a recommendation letter for their son.

The couple, one a lawyer and the other a legal clerk, had sought help from Lam after their son failed to secure a place at La Salle Primary School in Kowloon Tong through the central placement system.

When the boy eventually did gain admission to La Salle in August 2012, the pair asked for the watches back.

But Lam told them the timepieces had already gone under the hammer. He promised to make full repayment but returned just HK$100,000.

The alumni association later confirmed that there had been no such auction.

In response to the affair, the Diocesan Boys' School, in Mong Kok, said its admission process was transparent and fair.

Before convicting Lam, the magistrate pointed out what he said were several unreasonable assertions in the defence case.

For example, the defence claimed that La Salle had appeared only in the couple's court evidence, but was never mentioned in the statements they gave to police.

But Yuen said this was reasonable as the initial complaint to police had only involved the Diocesan Boys' School.

Another baseless argument, the magistrate said, was that the victims had never questioned the operation of the auction and had agreed to participate in it through a middleman.

"The witnesses explained that they did not directly participate in the auction because they had no connection with the school at all," Yuen said.

In mitigation submissions, defence barrister Bruce Tse Chee-ho said that Lam had dropped out of a university in France and had run his own business ever since.

He was divorced and his son was studying at a Taiwanese international school.

Tse said Lam was willing to pay full compensation.

Lam has been freed on bail and will be sentenced on January 29, pending a report on his suitability for community service.