Shoplifter in hospital

THE son of Hang Seng Bank chairman Sir Quo-wei Lee, George Lee Wing-chi, is being treated in Central Hospital for compulsive shoplifting, Western Court heard yesterday.

Lee, 43, a company director, pleaded guilty to five counts of theft between October 16 and February 3 in which he stole items including travelling bags, dried flowers, perfumed candles, a cigar and a torch.

Magistrate Paul Kelly adjourned sentencing to April 12 pending a probation report. He extended Lee's bail on condition that Lee remain in Central Hospital.

Defence counsel Charles Ching QC said Lee's mental disorder resulted from injuries suffered in two car accidents before 1990.

Mr Ching said Lee lost control of himself and did not know what he was doing when he took the items without paying.

The court heard that on October 16, Lee stole a black travelling bag, a bottle of perfume, a box of dried flowers, one cigar and a box of perfumed candles worth $2,583 from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Ten days later, he shoplifted a small torch worth $40 from a company in Stanley Street.

After he committed these offences, Lee took steps to prevent recurrences by opening accounts in department stores which he frequented. Anything he took would automatically be placed on his account, Mr Ching said.

Lee also employed Poon Shum-hoi for $2,000 a month to accompany him and pay for any items Lee took.

Lee's third shoplifting offence was committed when he was on his way to see a doctor on December 6, the court was told. He told the driver to drop him at a convenience store in Connaught Road, Central, and took 24 cans of soft drink worth a total of $115.40.

The only surviving son of Sir Quo-wei, Lee voluntarily admitted himself to hospital for observation on December 17 after the incident, defence counsel said.

Lee spent his Christmas and New Year in hospital and was discharged on condition that he did not leave his home for a few days.

However, Lee did so, and on January 7 stole three books and two videotapes from Times Book Centre in the Man Yee Building, Central, the court heard. The books were the biography of Deng Xiaoping, and two volumes of Xu Jiatun's Reminiscences. The goods were worth a total of $398.

The last offence was when Lee left his office on February 3 to go to the toilet but ended up entering Mannings in Queen's Road, Central. He took four boxes of chocolates and a doll and left the store without paying.

Yesterday, magistrate Paul Kelly fixed the extended bail at $1,000 for each count of theft.

On December 4, 1991, Lee was acquitted of stealing an antique wooden box from a shop in Hollywood Road. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested again in relation to a similar offence but was not charged.

Lee had also admitted that on June 12 last year, he stole five neckties worth $3,460 from Lane Crawford. Two months later, he was fined $1,000.