Merchant jailed for HK$7m of diamond thefts

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 May, 2013, 3:49am

A jewellery trader has pleaded guilty to stealing nearly HK$7 million of diamonds from seven suppliers over six months and pawning most of the gems for cash.

Chan Ho-wai, 44, was jailed for three years and eight months yesterday over seven counts of theft. The offences happened between April and October 2011.

Prosecutor Laurence Poots told the Court of First Instance that 75 pieces of jewellery costing HK$5.8 million had been recovered from eight pawnshops.

Chan acted as a middleman to help the suppliers sell their jewellery, and had to return anything that was unsold. But the father of two, who had been in financial difficulties, neither paid for the goods nor returned any remaining items to the suppliers.

"Chan pawned many of the pieces to raise money for himself," Poots said.

Among the stolen jewellery were a heart-shaped diamond, 49 diamond rings, 11 diamond bangles, 8 diamond bracelets, and many diamond pendants and necklaces. The total value was HK$6.8 million.

Chan was arrested in October that year after one of the suppliers made a report to police.

In mitigation, the court heard that Chan had been a jewellery designer and trader for years. He is divorced with two daughters.

He ran into financial difficulties after a Japanese buyer disappeared with HK$1 million of jewellery without paying. He was bankrupt from 2000 to 2004.

The sentencing guideline for theft of HK$3 million to HK$15 million is five to 10 years. Mrs Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling found her starting point for Chan was 5-1/2 years after concluding this was not a classical case of breach of trust. She reduced the penalty by one-third for his guilty plea.