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Hong Kong courts

HK$3.6 million school admissions scam lands couple in jail

Chu Lau-ying told mothers that a donation – paid into her husband’s bank account – would boost their children’s chances of getting into the prestigious Harrow International School Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 7:24pm
UPDATED : Monday, 09 October, 2017, 11:13pm

A former school admissions officer and her husband were jailed for up to 34 months on Monday for scamming HK$3.6 million from parents eager to get their children into the Hong Kong branch of an elite UK school.

The District Court heard that Chu Lau-ying, 27, told three mothers that a donation would help improve their children’s chances of admission to Harrow International School Hong Kong, and that they could even guarantee a place if they were willing to pay more.

Two mothers, following Chu’s instructions, put HK$2.1 million into her husband’s bank account.

The scam was foiled when a third target called the school and found the truth.

Chu was jailed for 34 months on two counts of fraud and one of attempted fraud. Her husband Ng Mei-chuen, 25, a leathersmith with no prior convictions, was given 24 months over two counts of laundering the proceeds of crime.

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The court heard that Chu was responsible for processing applications for admissions to the school and arranging interviews with suitable applicants.

In April 2015, she asked a mother to pay HK$600,000 as sponsorship to the school to confirm her daughter’s application. Believing the request was genuine, the mother wrote a cheque that was eventually deposited into Ng’s account.

Ten months later, Chu told another mother that her daughter’s chances of admission were slim, and convinced her to donate HK$1.5 million into Ng’s account to get immediate admission.

The scam came to light when Chu attempted to defraud a third mother by asking her to pay HK$1.5 million to improve her daughter’s chances.

The mother reported the matter to an assistant registrar at the school, who told her that the school had nothing to do with that request.

Deputy Judge Winnie Lau Yee-wan said the crime was a serious one, involving a breach of trust that the school had placed in Chu, in her frontline role liaising with parents.

“[Chu] was an important communication bridge trusted by the school but she obviously breached that trust,” Lau said before sentencing. “Imprisonment is inevitable.”

But she accepted the mitigation that all victims had been fully compensated, and that both Chu and her husband had reflected on their offences after finding religion during their time in custody.