Defence, prosecution fail to stop man from pleading guilty to wrongful charge A judge yesterday accused lawyers of wasting court time after it was found that a defendant had pleaded guilty to an incorrect charge laid eight years earlier. The District Court heard that Andrew Lam Kwok-hung, 51, had been wrongfully charged in a credit card case in 1998 and had fled, only to admit the same charge after being extradited from Malaysia this year. Deputy District Court Judge Rickie Chan Kam-cheong said prosecutors were to blame for the mistake, but added that the defence should also have spotted it before Lam entered a guilty plea. The court heard that Lam was arrested in November 1998 and charged with possessing false instruments - 286 credit cards - and equipment to manufacture false cards. He fled after his first court appearance and was at large until he was rearrested in Malaysia and extradited on January 19 this year. He pleaded guilty in the District Court on April 13 to one charge of possessing counterfeit credit cards. The prosecution agreed at that time not to proceed with the charge of possession of equipment, to which he had pleaded not guilty. A special hearing was held on June 7 and 8, at which the court ruled that the potential loss to the banks from the false credit cards could have been $8.5 million. But at the same hearing, prosecutor Jonathan Man Tak-ho applied for an amendment of the charge of possessing counterfeit credit cards against Lam on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction. He said the 286 cards carried no names or numbers, and could therefore not induce any person to believe they were genuine. Yesterday, Deputy Judge Chan granted the application to amend the charge. He adjourned the case to July 14, when Lam is expected to enter a plea to two charges of possessing equipment for making false credit cards. The judge also told the lawyers to ensure proper and clear legal advice be provided to Lam before his plea is taken again. Defence solicitor Raymond Chung Hing-to contended that the mistake should have been spotted earlier by the prosecution. The judge said the prosecution had no way to avoid blame for the mistake, and said Mr Man had admitted as much. 'But that doesn't mean that the defence can just sit there and wait.' He said the defence lawyer should have examined all the evidence before his client was advised. The court heard that Lam allegedly possessed the cards, and machines for making false credit cards, on July 10, 1998, at the Metropole Hotel in Kowloon. He has been remanded in custody.