Clerk stole containers worth $29m

A CLERK who stole loaded containers worth more than $29 million by capitalising on loopholes in handling procedures at a container terminal was jailed for 31/2 years yesterday.

Lam Siu-wing, 21, who at the time worked at Sealand Container Terminal, pleaded guilty in the District Court to five counts of theft and a count of attempted theft.

He admitted stealing eight containers from the Sealand berth at Kwai Chung Container Port between February and August last year.

The court heard that Lam also tried to steal another container in May.

The containers were loaded with goods ranging from audio and visual equipment to typewriters and printers.

Lam's solicitor, Chung Chi-wing, said: ''The loophole was such that even a junior gate clerk like the defendant could have access to information on computers.'' He said Lam was willing to testify against the alleged prime instigator of the case, So Man-kwong.

The court heard that So allegedly invited him to help steal containers from Sealand. Lam had agreed and given false documents on electrical goods to So, who had then arranged for others to steal the containers.

On each occasion, drivers of the stolen tractors produced proper release orders with serial and zone numbers.

Although access to these blank orders and the information was restricted to Sealand staff, the court heard procedures were not properly controlled.

With the help of records of telephone calls made to Lam's home, police arrested Lam who admitted his involvement in the theft.

He said he did not take part in the physical stealing of the containers and did not know how the stolen containers were disposed of.

In sentencing, Deputy Judge O'Donnell said he found it inappropriate for him to send Lam to a detention centre, given the total value of the stolen goods.

The court heard that about $10.5 million worth of goods had been recovered.

While accepting that Lam was only a junior employee, Deputy Judge O'Donnell said the defendant had abused his position of trust.