Police arrest co-owner of Hong Kong travel agency that left Filipinos stranded on Christmas
Rhea Donna Boyce is accused of conspiracy to defraud after hundreds of Filipino domestic helpers discovered they had booked bogus air tickets
Police on Monday arrested the co-owner of the Hong Kong travel agency who took Filipino domestic helpers’ money and failed to arrange their air tickets leaving customers without a flight home for Christmas.
A police source said Rhea Donna Boyce, 39, was arrested on Christmas Day for conspiracy to defraud.
The arrest was in relation to the case of hundreds of Filipino domestic workers who discovered last week that air tickets booked through Boyce’s Peya Travel agency were not being honoured by airlines and refunds were not being issued to customers.
Boyce, who is from the Philippines but also holds a Hong Kong ID card, was arrested at her Wan Chai residence this morning. On Saturday, she was questioned voluntarily by police but declined to provide answers.
As police intensified their enquiries, officers took Boyce to her travel agency shop in World-Wide Plaza in Central where it was searched on Monday afternoon.
The investigation started on Friday after scores of helpers turned up at Hong Kong International Airport last week to discover that their bookings made with several airlines did not exist, despite having forked out up to HK$4,300 (US$550) – about a month’s salary for many of the workers – for a plane ticket home.
The cases soon multiplied. By Tuesday, the travel agency’s shop in Central was under siege from angry, confused and scared helpers who feared they would miss Christmas at home with their families.
Earlier on Monday, the last remaining domestic helpers who snagged free flights home, paid by the Philippine government, departed Hong Kong.
More than 50 helpers were waived off by Philippine consulate staff, who had frantically worked for the past five days to help the helpers get home for the holidays.
With flights all but sold out, airlines responded by using bigger planes and making more seats available to help people affected by the fiasco. Manila eventually stepped in on Friday to offer free flights to any helper affected by the travel agent to go home.
Almost 600 Filipino domestic helpers had come forward to say they were victims.
The consulate used the details of the complaints, which were checked and verified through official travel agency bookings, to help the workers get refunds and also passed the information onto police.