Six company directors accused of fraud by fitting counterfeit door locks to public housing projects were acquitted yesterday. The judge accused the Housing Authority of running a secret 'black box' operation regarding its procedural guidelines for building material suppliers. Henry Tse Sun-fat, 45, Tony Tse Sun-po, 43, Almond Tse Sun-ming, 42, Rhodes Lee Chi-wah, 39, and Yick Kai-chung, 43 - all directors of E Bon Building Materials Company - and former director Albert Tse Sun-wai, 51, were each acquitted of two joint charges of conspiracy to defraud. They were accused of providing 92,800 counterfeit Bonco locks and 10,900 fake Alpha locks worth $16.8 million and installing them in eight Home Ownership Scheme projects and three public housing estates between July 7, 1997, and August 31 last year. Dismissing the charges, District Court judge Fergal Sweeney said that he could not find any dishonesty in the defendants' actions and criticised the list of approved materials to be used in Housing Authority projects as a 'black box', saying it did not provide lock suppliers with clear procedural guidelines. Judge Sweeney said there was no evidence that the suppliers were required by regulation to tell the authority of any change in where the locks were made, only in the materials from which they were manufactured. He said a senior authority architect admitted in his court testimony that he assumed a change of materials would imply a change of origin. The judge said miscommunication between the Housing Authority and the suppliers led to misunderstanding and conflict. 'It all led to the arrests of the company directors, a lengthy investigation and even bringing the case to the court,' Judge Sweeney said. He added that it was unfortunate that officers of the Independent Commission Against Corruption ignored some documents stating that E Bon had held the trademark of Bonco locks since 1984. It was wrong for investigators to have assumed at the beginning of the probe that E Bon had provided counterfeit door locks to the authority. 'It's not the first time the prosecution was chasing shadows,' he said. The court heard that E Bon Building Materials supplied locks to contractors for the Housing Authority from about May 1998 to June last year, telling the authority the locks were manufactured by Showa Lock and Kokusan Kinzoku Company in Japan. The locks were in fact made in either China or Hong Kong by manufacturers associated with E Bon. The court was told E Bon set up a factory in 1997 in Dongguan, Guangdong province, to produce locks for the authority's building projects. But the prosecution accused the company of continuing to claim the locks were made in Japan. Judge Sweeney granted the defence's application for undisclosed costs. Leung Chin-man, the Permanent Secretary for Housing, Planning and Lands, declined to comment on the court's criticisms, saying he needed to study the judgment.