Scales of justice: shoplifter who stole HK$900,000 alligator skin coat jailed

Kamal Rai walked out of a busy Burberry shop in Tsim Sha Tsui with the costly clobber, before selling it for HK$2,000 in Chungking Mansions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 August, 2014, 1:40pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 4:46am

A Nepalese shoplifter who strolled out of a Burberry shop in Tsim Sha Tsui with a HK$900,000 alligator skin coat, and later sold it for a fraction of the price, was sentenced to 18 months in jail on Tuesday at District Court.

Kamal Rai removed the extravagant coat from a mannequin and walked out of the shop under the noses of busy sales assistants on February 19.

He later sold it for HK$2,000 to a shop in Chungking Mansions, the court heard.

Staff members had no idea the item was missing until they carried out a stocktake at the end of the day. Closed-circuit television footage then revealed the audacious feat.

Rai pleaded guilty to the theft and to shoplifting five pairs of trousers worth a total of HK$5,450 from a Tommy Hilfiger shop in Tsim Sha Tsui’s Mira Mall three days earlier.

The alligator coat was eventually recovered from a flowerbed in the area of Chungking Mansions on February 21, after the defendant provided information under caution.

Before handing down the sentence, Judge Johnny Chan Jong-herng said Rai was a repeat offender, with a lengthy criminal record including 16 previous convictions for theft.

“It seems that sentences [previously] imposed on the defendant had no deterrent effect on him,” said Chan.

Defence counsel John Dunn said that his client had not been aware of the value of the coat because there was no price tag attached to it. Rai was a drug addict, so he resorted to stealing when he ran out of money, Dunn said.

But Chan said that the fact the coat was made of alligator skin, and that the defendant was able to sell it for HK$2,000, meant it was a “valuable item”.

The judge also noted that Rai had targeted high-end shops.