Jail for man who tried to blackmail Transformers 4 film crew

Younger brother sentenced to 2 ½ years for demanding money from Hollywood film crew

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 February, 2014, 1:41pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 February, 2014, 4:43am

An air-conditioning technician who tried to extort HK$100,000 from a Hollywood film crew had damaged Hong Kong's reputation, a judge said as he jailed the man for 30 months yesterday.

District Court Judge Josiah Lam Wai-kuen found Mak Chi-shing, 27, guilty of blackmailing the crew of Transformers: Age of Extinction and of assaulting a police officer.

He acquitted Mak's brother, Mak Chi-hang, 29, of blackmail, but jailed him for six weeks for resisting a police officer.

The judge said the case involved a foreign film crew who had chosen to shoot in Hong Kong, and had been widely reported by the media.

"It affected the impression of security in Hong Kong as an international city," Lam said. "It might affect foreigners' [deciding whether] to travel and work in Hong Kong as well."

Lam said the younger Mak had negotiated with a crew member to get compensation of HK$1,000 to HK$2,000, but then increased the demand overnight to HK$100,000.

The judge found that the two had disrupted the crew by making a noise outside their shop in King's Road, Quarry Bay, in an attempt to disturb filming.

However, he found no evidence to show the elder brother was involved in demanding cash and acquitted him of that charge.

The court heard that the brothers and three other men turned a music player up to a high volume and moved air conditioners in and out of the shop to create a disturbance after the crew refused to pay up.

Police were alerted when some crew members got into a scuffle with the brothers. The court heard that the elder Mak had thrown an air conditioner towards director Michael Bay.

Counsel for the two brothers told the court in their final submissions that the elder brother was smaller than the foreign filmmakers he was tussling with and was on the ground when police arrived. They claimed the situation was chaotic when officers turned up and that the elder brother refused to co-operate, while the younger Mak pushed an officer on the shoulder.

The judge said it would have been better for the police officers to have "made clear to the brothers" what they were doing. But he said family loyalty did not allow the older brother to disobey an officer's order.

He accepted the push by the younger brother was "reckless" rather than "deliberate".

The crew of the big-budget Hollywood blockbuster, the fourth in the series, had an eventful two-week shoot in Hong Kong. They also suffered a separate alleged extortion attempt in To Kwa Wan and had to plan a shoot at government headquarters to avoid a clash with a protest by supporters of snubbed television licence bidder Hong Kong Television Network. The film is out this summer.