Shop chain sues ex-employees

DUTY Free Shoppers Hongkong Limited has filed a writ with the Supreme Court, seeking a payment of $6.7 million from three former employees and their wives.

The amount is the balance of $17 million which the company claims Wong Kwok-pong and his wife Tang Chiu-lun, Ho Shun-kau and his wife Ma Yuk-yung, and Hung Ping-kong and his wife Lam Yuk-ping agreed to repay on April 18.

Wong, a financial analyst, and accountants Ho and Hung were employed by Duty Free Shoppers from 1987 until March 31, 1991, when they were asked to resign because they had been charged with theft for embezzling almost $25 million from the company.

They pleaded guilty to 10 counts of theft on March 29, this year. Wong was sentenced to four years and three months' jail, while Ho and Hung were each given 31/2 years' jail on April 19 by Deputy Judge Gould in the High Court.

Duty Free Shoppers issued a writ against the three men on August 13, 1991, seeking damages for fraud and the repayment of $24.8 million.

Since no defence was filed, judgment was entered in favour of the company on January 31, last year.

On April 9, last year, the writ was amended to include their wives, who filed a joint defence on December 23.

In a letter dated April 17, this year, Duty Free Shoppers offered to accept $6,395,699 and C$287,500 (HK$1.73 million) from Wong, $3,825,000 from Ho, and $5,063,514 from Hung.

The following day, Ms Tang, Ms Ma and Ms Lam, on their own behalf and that of their husbands, accepted the offer, it is claimed.

It is the plaintiff's case that the offer implied that the payment would be made within a reasonable period.

But despite repeated requests and a lapse of time, Wong has not paid the company $1.8 million, Ho has failed to repay $2.5 million, Hung has not repaid $2,442,191, and their wives have refused to take steps to enable them to do so.