In first for Hong Kong, investment manager jailed for trying to coerce mentally disabled woman
Magistrate says offence is serious and deserves deterrent sentence; customs department welcomes court ruling
An investment company manager who tried to force a mentally disabled woman to trade precious metals was jailed for a month on Thursday.
The case in West Kowloon Court marked the first conviction in the city for aggressive sales practices in the financial services sector.
Magistrate Raymond Wong Kwok-fai was told Liu Wing-wai of Success International Bullion (H.K.) grabbed the hand of the woman to get her to sign trading papers at a Maxim’s MX restaurant in Tsuen Wan on September 26 last year.
Liu was also seen patting the woman on the back and putting his arm around her shoulders while she filled out documents. But the transaction fell through after two neighbouring diners filmed the incident and reported the case to police.
Liu, 25, was convicted last month on one count of engaging in an aggressive commercial practice as the magistrate found he had knowingly exploited the woman’s mental state to make a decision she would not have otherwise made.
His father and brother wrote in mitigation that the offence had shocked the family, and said they were worried because he had always been a good son.
Liu bowed his head as the magistrate said the case was a serious one that required a deterrent sentence.
“The court has to send a message to offenders that there’s a responsibility to protect the mentally disabled and children,” Wong said.
But he also took into account the fact that no actual monetary transaction took place and Liu had no criminal record. He had also promised to never reoffend, explaining in a letter that he would face life with positivity.
Defence counsel Byron Tsang said: “After this incident, after two weeks in custody, he’s learned a heavy lesson. He will not break the law again. He will follow the rules and be a better person.”
Yeung Wing-yan, commander of the Unfair Trade Practice Investigation Division at the Customs and Excise Department, said: “Social justice has been met through the court’s severe sentence.”
Yeung said consumers who had no intention of purchasing products to stand firm in refusing to sign sales documents.
Under the Trade Descriptions Ordinance, the use of harassment, coercion or undue influence to impair a consumer’s freedom of choice is punishable by a HK$500,000 fine and five years in prison.
When asked if the department would seek a review of the sentence, Yeung said: “We welcome the court ruling for the time being.”