Millions couple took from parents to secure places at elite Hong Kong school ‘were put aside to pay children’s fees’

Employee at elite Harrow International School acted like a ‘nanny’, co-defendant says, but court told that some of the cash was used to pay credit card bills

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 January, 2017, 4:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 2:35am

The spouse of an elite school employee accused of scamming the parents of prospective pupils out of millions of Hong Kong dollars told a court on Monday that the money was put aside to pay the children’s school charges.

But the District Court also heard that some of the cash “entrusted” to the couple was used to settle the husband’s credit card bills without the parents’ knowledge.

Chu Lau-ying, 27, a former staff member of Harrow International School in Tuen Mun, is facing numerous charges for attempting to defraud parents out of up to HK$3.6 million on multiple occasions in 2015 and 2016.

Last week the court heard how a couple handed HK$1.5 million in false donations to the defendant after Chu advised them their daughter would not be accepted otherwise. Another parent of a prospective student allegedly paid Chu HK$600,000 as a false sponsorship payment.

In a third instance, Chu is accused of attempting to defraud another parent out of HK$1.5 million by telling them their child was ranked low on a waiting list – that transaction did not go ahead.

The parents who did pay were advised to make a cheque out to the school’s “senior staff member” Ng Mei-chuen – Chu’s boyfriend at the time, now husband. Ng is charged with dealing with the proceeds of crime.

On the sixth day of their trial, 25-year-old Ng began to give evidence and told the court that the two payments totalling HK$2.1 million were entrusted to Chu by the parents.

She was acting like a “nanny” and would be responsible for paying the fees on behalf of the students’ parents, he told the court.

“[Chu] told me she deposited the parents’ money in my accounts because she didn’t want to arouse suspicion,” Ng testified. “[Chu] feared the school would think they were involved in some kind of improper act.”

But prosecutor Marco Li Kwok-wai noted that Ng had repeatedly used the “entrusted” money to pay his own bills.

“Did you think that was your own money?” Li asked him.

“I found the money very handy,” Ng said.

He confirmed he had used some of the money in the accounts but stressed he could have transferred money from his other bank accounts to fill the shortfall. He said he had hundreds of thousands of yuan in his mainland account.

But he admitted he never returned the sums after a total of 29 withdrawals.

“I didn’t suspect the money was proceeds of a crime,” he said. “I believe my wife.”

The trial continues.