Hong Kong ‘black sheep’ locked up for selling menthol drops at 800 times real price

Pharmacy workers charged mainland tourist HK$50,000 for two bottles of peppermint drops after telling her they cost HK$30 each

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 3:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 April, 2017, 11:28pm

A Hong Kong court locked up two pharmacy workers on Wednesday after a landmark conviction for selling peppermint drops at 800 times the actual price.

The magistrate called Leung Ka-po, 21, and Tang Tsz-ho, 23, “black sheep” who had tarnished the city’s reputation.

Kowloon City Court heard the pair charged a 63-year-old mainland tourist HK$50,000 to her credit card in November 2015 for two bottles of Ricqles, French menthol drops, after telling her they cost HK$30 each.

Both men were convicted after trial last month of one count of fraud, an offence punishable by 14 years’ imprisonment.

They had argued for short-term imprisonment, but deputy magistrate Leung Lai-yin adopted recommendations by the Youth Offender Assessment Panel to place Leung in a training centre for at least 18 months and Tang in a detention centre for an unspecified period.

The panel found Leung needed custodial training, and three years of supervision, as he had shown no remorse.

The defence had argued there was no actual loss incurred as the victim was compensated before the prosecution.

Tang’s lawyer, Yeung Shak-nung, said his client was remorseful for his naive behaviour and had thought the matter would be settled if he repaid the customer.

His mental intelligence is lower than ordinary people
Yeung Shak-nung, defence lawyer

Yeung said Tang – who had no prior convictions – would prefer to go to jail. Detention centres emphasise hard work and discipline and he knew “physical labour would be very tough”.

“His mental intelligence is lower than ordinary people,” he said, referring to an intelligence test ordered by the court. “He committed such foolish behaviour out of fear of losing his job.”

Leung said a deterrent was needed as the case was so serious.

“The flagrant behaviour shown by the two of you has tarnished the reputation of the entire pharmacy trade,” he said.

“Hong Kong did not easily attain its reputation as a shopping paradise, and yet that [reputation] is damaged step by step by black sheep like the two of you.”

Speaking on behalf of the customs department, Superintendent Kwan Kin-keung said the pair were the first to be convicted under an unfair trade practice of setting an unreasonable price.

“The customs department believes that the court has delivered a very clear message that such unfair trade practices will not be tolerated,” Kwan said outside court.

The Mong Kok pharmacy where the crime happened had closed down, the court heard.