A property developer and two agents were branded 'sharks' by a judge yesterday for tricking three elderly and illiterate mainland sisters into selling their share in a flat for a third of the market value. Mr Justice William Waung Sik-ying ordered that the unlawful transaction be set aside so the sisters, Lo Wo, 91, Lo Tai, 87, and Lo Lan, 84, can get back their share of the North Point site. The Court of First Instance judge said the three women, who inherited half a flat from another sister when she died in 1984, had no idea their property was worth at least $2.7 million. They were persuaded to accept $870,000. The judge described the case as one of 'distasteful unconscionable conduct by Hong Kong sharks against defenceless mainland Chinese persons of serious disadvantage'. It was necessary to set aside the deal in order to protect the weak and to ensure the developer did not gain from its actions, he said. Bond Star Development Ltd, and conveyancing clerk Joseph Cheung Chan-ka, who acted for the developer in the transaction, were also ordered to pay costs. The half-share of the flat in Ming Yuen Street was the only part of the property which the developers had not acquired and was therefore very important to them, the judge said. Mr Cheung and property agent Lum Yee-cheung, visited the sisters on the mainland in August 1993 and secured a provisional agreement for the sale. The sisters, from a remote area in Guangdong, each marked the contract, parting with the property for $870,000, with a cross. Ms Lo Lan was told by Mr Cheung they could not get a higher price, the judge said. 'Persuading the sisters to sell was quite easy,' he said. The sisters were given an initial $50,000 deposit in cash, followed by $100,000. After the sale was completed in 1995 they learned the property's real value and took legal action, refusing to accept the rest of the purchase price from the developers. Mr Justice Waung rejected claims that the sisters had benefited from the advice of other family members who were present at the time of the agreement. He said the relatives, because of their poverty and perhaps their ignorance, would have wrongly encouraged the sisters to accept the offer, which appeared to them to be 'big money'. 'For me, the presence of the family members simply pointed to a case of the blind leading the blind and the weak leading the weak,' he said. Mr Justice Waung said the sisters' poverty made them 'particularly disadvantaged and vulnerable when vultures such as Cheung and Lum descended upon them'. The judge said no court could tolerate such an 'unconscionable bargain'. Leo Remedios, for the sisters, said after the hearing it would now be open to them to decide what to do with their share of the property. The flats have already been demolished by the developers.