A reseller of baby formula has been jailed for 3-1/2 months for paying HK$800 in bribes to supermarket managers amid a formula shortage in 2010 and 2011 when mothers in Hong Kong stockpiled supplies, fearing they would run out.
Cheung Shiu-chor, 51, had 736 cans of milk powder in his car and at home when he was arrested, at a time when supermarkets were limiting sales of formula to three cans per customer, prosecutor Lisa Yip told Kwun Tong Court yesterday. The rationing was implemented because many resellers were taking advantage of food safety scares on the mainland to sell formula from Hong Kong over the border.
Cheung was convicted of offering HK$800 in lai see, or "lucky money", to three managers at ParknShop and Watsons in Wong Tai Sin during Lunar New Year last year.
In his ruling convicting Cheung of four counts of offering an advantage to an agent, Magistrate Anthony Yuen Wai-ming said the money must have been intended to secure a "good working relationship" with the managers. "Although the [offer] of the advantage may not be for a particular duty, it obviously was for keeping a good working relationship, so [Cheung could enjoy] a more privileged kind of treatment," Yuen said. "Justifying the effectiveness of his act … the [managers] continued to supply [Cheung] with large volumes of milk powder."
ParknShop managers Wu Ka-keung, 42 and Anson Ng Ching-kin, 32, were convicted after trial of accepting an advantage, while Lau Koon-hung, a 40-year-old supervisor at Watsons, pleaded guilty to the same charge.
"In no form will corruption be tolerated or appeased," the magistrate said.
Lau's counsel told the court that the HK$500 in lai see he received, which had now been seized, had cost him his HK$170,000 pension. Wu and Ng were ordered to hand over the HK$100 and HK$200, respectively, which they received. All three were given jail terms of between two and three months, suspended for one to 1-1/2 years.
All of the defendants, except Lau, were also charged with conspiracy to defraud the supermarkets, but were found not guilty. Another bulk buyer, Wu Xiankuai, and ParknShop manager Lam Kwok-fai, were also acquitted of conspiracy to defraud.
Yuen said this was due to a lack of evidence of "prior agreements" between the managers and the resellers.