A prosecutor asks for a tougher sentence on a defendant because of the prevalence of the offence The number of counterfeit card cases in Hong Kong has increased 13-fold since 1998, prompting the Department of Justice to ask courts to impose longer jail terms for related offences. The call for extra jail time was made in the Court of First Instance during the sentencing of Li Kin-wai, 43, who pleaded guilty to possessing equipment for making false instruments, forgery and possessing false instruments. Prosecutor Beney Wong told Madam Justice Clare-Marie Beeson 'the prevalence of the offence' necessitated an increased sentence. Police statistics submitted to the court showed a sharp rise in the number of cases involving counterfeit credit cards over the past six years. In 1998, there were only 36 reported cases, but the figure surged to 274 in 2002 and there were 493 cases last year. Authorities reported seizing 143 fake credit cards in 1998, 2,204 in 2002 and 639 last year. Madam Justice Beeson adjourned sentencing until January 28 to analyse the figures. The court heard that police on an anti-burglary operation at Yue Yee Building in San Po Kong on March 18 last year stumbled onto the fake credit card production line after they spotted Li 'behaving furtively'. The court heard that when they entered Li's room they found a variety of equipment that could produce the cards, including an embossing machine, a printing machine, various computers, an encoder, a skimmer and 366 plastic cards bearing fake Visa, Mastercard and Diners logos. Li told officers he was paid $100 for each of the fake cards he produced. He said that in February last year he began working for a man he knew only as Ah Fai, and that he had since made about 30 fake cards. Li also confessed that Ah Fai would phone him and give him credit card account data that he would run through a software programme called 'Windcard'. A printing machine would then print the numbers on the front of the counterfeit cards. Another software programme would encode the account data onto the magnetic stripe. Defence counsel Peter Cosgrove told the court his client was released from prison in March the previous year and had been unsuccessful in finding a job. He said Ah Fai was a loanshark from whom Li borrowed $50,000 to pay for his brother-in-law's funeral. Li only agreed to work for Ah Fai to pay off the loan after the loanshark threatened him.