Fearful mother tells of HK$1.5m ‘donation’ to top school

Trial of former Harrow International employee hears how she paid to get daughter ‘weak’ at oral English and maths priority entry

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 11:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 12:03am

A couple’s fear that their young daughter would not be accepted into an elite international school led them to pay HK$1.5 million in false “donations”, a court heard.

On the second day of the trial of Chu Lau-ying – a former employee of Harrow International School accused of attempting to defraud numerous parents out of up to HK$3.6 million – a mother of three told how the defendant ­talked her into paying the money.

Identified as “A” to protect her identity, the mother said Chu had told her during phone conversations in early 2016 that her second daughter had an average admission interview and did not have a high chance of being accepted.

“I had a feeling my daughter didn’t stand a chance of getting admitted,” the mother said on Tuesday.

“Chu told me my daughter’s oral English and mathematics were ‘weak’.”

She recalled Chu saying: “You may consider making a donation if you want your child to get priority entry.”

The mother said Chu had told her that a donation of HK$2 million would secure an instant offer, but a HK$1.5 million payment would only ensure first place on a waiting list.

Chu also allegedly told the mother that the money would be used to build a new Harrow branch in Shanghai.

“Basically, you will not stand a chance of getting a place if you do not make a donation,” the mother recalled Chu as saying.

Chu told her that Harrow Hong Kong had in previous years given priority entry to children who met minimum requirements after their parents made such a donation, “A” added.

After discussing it with her husband, the mother agreed to pay the HK$1.5 million “donation”. She told Chu, however, that her family could not afford to pay the HK$2 million.

Chu later advised “A” that the school had accepted the proposed payment amount, and ­she should write a cheque out to Ng Mei-chuen.

Ng, who was Chu’s boyfriend at the time and is now her ­husband, is a co-defendant in the case and is charged with dealing with proceeds of crime.

“A” said when she questioned why the cheque was not made out to Harrow Hong Kong, Chu ­advised her the money would be spent on the Shanghai project and therefore should be made payable to Ng as the school’s “senior staff member”.

Barrister Keith Fung, representing Chu, argued his client had never made any of the statements alleged by the mother.

Chu, 27 and Ng, 25, are also ­accused of related fraud and attempted fraud charges amounting to further HK$2.1 million.

The couple were released on bail in April. The trial continues on Wednesday.