Judge tells Hong Kong police officer accused of blackmail: I know you took the HK$10,000 and lied about doing so, but you’re free to go
Sergeant acquitted after judge rules victim did not tell whole truth when giving evidence, and raises doubts about circumstances of money changing hands
A police sergeant who was nearly HK$1 million in debt took HK$10,000 from a man suspected of molesting a woman, a judge said on Thursday – just before he let the former officer walk free from court.
Chang Wai-kei was acquitted on one count of blackmail and another of theft by District Court Judge Tam Sze-lok, despite the judge ruling Chang had taken the money, and lied in court about doing so.
However, Tam said because the suspect, known as X in court, had not told the whole truth during his testimony, he could not find the 49-year-old Chang guilty.
“The court cannot be sure under what circumstance [X] made the payment,” Tam said, as he allowed Chang, who left the police force before the trial, to walk free.
Tam also queried the police investigation of the incident, wondering why officers from West Kowloon Police Headquarters in Ho Man Tin, where Chang was once based, had run the initial investigation and not the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
He also expressed concerns over the trial itself, wondering why prosecutors had not given X immunity for his testimony, which put him at risk of being prosecuted for bribing a police officer.
“The court felt compelled to raise these questions,” Tam said.
A police spokesman said Chang was no longer employed by the force, and his last posting had been at Wan Chai Police Headquarters.
The spokesman added that the force had acted on legal advice from the Department of Justice.
Earlier, the court heard that on July 13 last year X was intercepted by Chang, who was off-duty at the time, at the Prince Edward MTR station and accused of molesting a woman at Tsim Sha Tsui station earlier that day.
On the way to Mong Kok police station, Chang, who was HK$810,000 in debt, allegedly told X the matter would reach his boss, and he would be in shame.
X said he never reached the station, eventually paying Chang HK$10,000 in cash for his release. He later decided to report the matter to police believing he had been scammed.
During an interview with police, Chang claimed he had let X go, but X kept following him. The pair eventually reached a bank, Chang said and X came out of the bank and struck another conversation before the pair went their separate ways.
Chang insisted he had not taken any money.
The judge did not believe the officer’s version of events, telling him it was illogical that X would have trailed him, withdrawn money, and then tried to catch up with him again.
That assertion was “false” the judge said, rejecting the sergeant’s version of events. He also said it was suspicious that Chang had only recorded his account in his police notebook three days later.
However, Tam said X also omitted key evidence, and had failed to be completely forthcoming about what had happened in Tsim Sha Tsui before Chang intercepted him at Prince Edward station.
The judge also said X had failed to adequately recount the details surrounding how he was let go after paying Chang.