A MAGISTRATE criticised an international insurance company yesterday for failing to stop a broker stealing clients' premiums for four years. Magistrate Henry Brazier, sentencing American International Assurance agent Fung Ching to six months in jail, said: 'I'm not satisfied with the company's supervision. It did not discover Fung's offences for four to five years'. Fung, 46, admitted stealing a total of US$17,000 (HK$131,325) from the company between 1991 and 1995, including the premiums on three life insurance policies and interest to three other customers. But the magistrate said that the losses to the firm's clients were actually far greater than the amount stated on the charges. 'The real victim is not American International Assurance, but the individuals who intended to insure their lives for the benefit of their families. 'You put the validity of their policies at risk,' said Mr Brazier. Eastern Court heard that on one occasion Fung received US$2,983 from a client for a premium but used the money to cover outstanding accounts of other clients. As a result, the insurance company ruled that the policy was invalid and the family would not be entitled to the US$50,000 compensation if the insured person died. Mr Brazier refused to pass a suspended sentence, but took Fung' previous good character into account. 'You're a professional and knew what you were doing. The potential damage of what you've done is severe,' he told Fung, who joined the company in 1985. The court heard that only one of the three policies was still in effect. In mitigation, Annie Lai said Fung had used premiums to maintain other clients' accounts because he risked losing his bonus and having his salary reduced as many customers dropped their insurance policies because of the poor economic climate. Fung had derived only limited personal gain from his crimes. His daughter also gave up her plan to study further after Form Five and had taken a job, Ms Lai told the court.