British snooker star Stephen Lee has charge dismissed for teaching without permit at Hong Kong billiards hall
Prosecution and defence agree to bind-over deal in which former world number five player must engage in good behaviour for 12 months
The charge against British snooker star Stephen Lee for teaching in Hong Kong without a work permit was dismissed on Friday, with a court ordering him to guarantee good behaviour for 12 months or pay HK$1,000 (US$127).
Lee, 43, had originally pleaded not guilty to breaching conditions of his stay in April. On Friday, the former world number five player admitted at Sha Tin Court that he had done so.
At the start of the session prosecutors announced they would dismiss the charge and offer no further evidence, as both sides had agreed to a bind-over – an obligation to engage in good behaviour.
Their late move prompted magistrate Colin Wong Sze-cheung to slam both parties for wasting court time.
“How come this decision couldn’t be made earlier?” he asked.
The prosecutor replied the arrangement was only proposed on Wednesday.
“We apologise,” defence counsel Lawrence Hui said.
Lee was bound over for 12 months for the sum of HK$1,000, meaning he is to refrain from committing or attempting to commit any crimes.
“Bind-over is not a criminal record and you do not need to pay this sum,” Wong said. “However if you breach this bond you will have to pay. Do you agree to the arrangement?”
“Yes,” Lee replied.
The snooker star entered Hong Kong on April 9 as a visitor, meaning he was not to take up any employment or join any business.
Immigration authorities learned he was offering classes at a new billiards hall, when it received enquiries about Lee’s coaching at Q School from April 10 to 14.
Lee was found to be offering a one-on-one snooker class in Jordan for HK$1,000.
When an undercover officer attended the class on the next day, Lee approached him and asked what he wanted to learn while the club director, former Hong Kong professional snooker player Au Chi-wai, explained the lesson would be recorded and a copy of the recording provided at the end of class.
The officer revealed the operation 10 minutes before the class ended and Lee was intercepted while he was teaching at the snooker table.
Lee told officers he had only offered lessons to help a friend with his new billiards hall.
Prosecutors alleged Lee breached his condition of stay by providing snooker coaching from April 10 to 12. The case was originally set for a two-day trial to begin on Friday.
Breaching condition of stay is punishable by two years in jail or a fine of up to HK$50,000.
Outside court, Lee thanked his lawyers and supporters.
“I’m looking to go and relax a couple of days,” he said. “I’m going back to the UK.”
The two directors and shareholders of the billiards hall, Au and Lam Chak-lun, as well as one of their employees, were also arrested in the operation. No prosecution has yet been laid for them.
This is not Lee’s first run-in with authorities.
In 2013, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association barred him from competition for 12 years over a match-fixing scandal that involved seven matches in 2008 and 2009, including one in the 2008 Malta Cup against Hong Kong star Marco Fu.