Taoist 'master' guilty of ritual scams involving cash and sex

A woman cheated out of HK$1.5 million was among 30 suspected victims of a syndicate that swindled people by staging phoney Taoist rituals, police said yesterday on the sidelines of a court case.

The woman, 47, believed she would receive a cash gift from heaven - HK$130 million - if she followed a 'master's' instructions, which included having sex with his two 'disciples' on nine occasions over a year. The sex, she was told, would help her accumulate her spiritual energy.

To further boost her spiritual energy, she was told to pay HK$1.5 million - to cover various costs including festive prayers, buying robes for 108 Thai monks and building altars in Thailand and the mainland.

Yesterday, the District Court was told that it was all part of a scheme orchestrated by three self-described Taoist masters.

One, Deng Qianxiang, 44, a two-way permit holder, pleaded guilty before Judge Stanley Chan Kwong-chi to one charge of conspiracy to defraud, admitting he had defrauded the woman with two other men between September 2008 and May 2009. Her identity was not revealed.

Prosecutor Franco Kuan Bak-on told the court two men were still wanted by police for the offence; Deng had claimed that one of them was his master and the other was a senior disciple of his master.

The prosecutor said two consultants - Leung Tak-wah of the Hong Kong Taoist Association and Shih Jue-zhen of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association - had declared that the 'ceremonies' used by the self-proclaimed Taoist priests were phoney.

Speaking outside court, police investigators said they suspected other mainlanders had carried out similar schemes in Hong Kong, posing as Taoist masters.

Police have found about 30 suspected victims, men and women between 18 and about 50 years old, after a thorough investigation into the names in Deng's phonebook.

The victims say they were cheated out of money ranging from a few thousand to millions of dollars. The woman's case came to court after police had gathered sufficient evidence for a prosecution, and it was the only case involving sex.

Kuan told the court yesterday Deng was introduced to the woman in September 2008 by Deng's 'master', who claimed to be 'Master Liu'. He performed a ritual in which a piece of paper revealed the words: 'Born with wisdom, it is time to become rich, travel around the world.' To obtain the riches, she was to follow Liu's instructions, and he frequently organised rituals for her to follow - which cost money.

From that point, she was asked to pay out more and more money for various reasons.

She was told to have sex with Deng on eight occasions, and once with Master Liu's 'senior disciple'.

In March last year, she was asked to give HK$198,000 for the construction of three altars, a request that she reported to police.

The case was adjourned to February 11 for sentencing, pending a victim's impact report and Deng's psychologist report.