Man who rigged electricity meters across Hong Kong pleads guilty over conspiring to defraud power companies

He fled city for mainland 14 years ago over death threats to his family, court told, but returned this year to turn himself in

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2016, 10:13pm

A technician who tampered with electricity meters across town to incur more than HK$460,000 in losses to the city’s two power firms fled to the mainland 14 years ago over a death threat to his family, a court heard yesterday.

Woo Hang-foo, 53, pleaded guilty yesterday to 17 counts of conspiring with others to defraud CLP Power Hong Kong and Hongkong Electric Company.

He jumped bail in July 2002 and returned to the city on May 29 this year to turn himself in over the rigging of meters at a long list of establishments between 2000 and 2001, the District Court heard.

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He had pocketed HK$133,500, paid by 21 middlemen and tenants who he conspired with from 18 restaurants, nightclubs and domestic sites, prosecutors said.

In mitigation, his lawyer Joseph Leung Kwok-kin said Woo jumped bail because “a few unknown men came to him,threatening the life of his wife”.

He was offered two choices, the lawyer added, which were to either put his family in danger as he awaited court proceedings or flee to the mainland for 10 years.

Leung said Woo, who already had two children from two previous marriages, then had three more with his new mainland wife. He eventually decided to return to Hong Kong as his lack of identity on the mainland made it impossible for his children to get a hukou – a residential status – and hence, state education, the lawyer said.

The court heard the first incident took place in October 2000, when Woo was given a HK$30,000 offer to recalibrate the meter at Hillbo Restaurant in Kwai Chung for a year, manipulating it into showing readings lower than the actual amount consumed.

Challenging Woo’s mitigation, deputy judge Bina Chainrai asked why it took him four extra years to return, given that he was threatened to disappear for only a decade. She adjourned the sentencing to August 18 pending a background report on Woo.