Jail time for Jacobs China technicians who faked safety test results on Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge
Judge sentences Mak Pui-shing, 65, and Kwong Fu-yin, 44, to 32 months and 22 months respectively after court hears false reports ended up costing taxpayers HK$58 million
Two technicians who worked on the mega bridge linking Hong Kong to Macau and mainland China were sentenced to jail on Thursday for falsifying safety test results that ended up costing taxpayers HK$58 million (US$7.4 million).
Mak Pui-shing, 65, a senior technician, was sentenced to 32 months in prison while assistant technician Kwong Fu-yin, 44, was sentenced to 22 months after both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud. The charge stemmed from a scandal during the construction of the multibillion-dollar Hong Kong-Macau-Zhuhai bridge.
As he read his sentence, District Court Judge Mr Clement Lee Hing-nin said Mak’s actions made the public lose confidence in infrastructure projects as well as the systems that keep them in check.
“The present falsifying incident may cause risk to the users of the bridge,” he said.
Both men sat motionless as the sentences were handed down.
The two were among 19 from contractor Jacobs China Limited, who were charged for faking test results on the strength of concrete bricks used on the bridge between 2012 and 2016.
The scandal raised fears of a safety risk, although later tests proved the bridge was structurally sound.
The West Kowloon Court on Thursday heard that the government had to pick up the massive bill to hire external experts to make sure bridge’s safety was not compromised.
Prosecutor Marco Li Kwok-wai told the court the cost of the follow-up tests amounted to HK$58 million, which included HK$700,000 in overtime pay for staff at the Civil Engineering and Development Department.
“Additional manpower was dedicated to reviewing other information and reports,” he said.
Li said more than HK$40 million was spent by the Highways Department to bring in outside experts to examine the bridge.
Kwong, who entered his plea on Thursday, was the fourth to admit culpability following Mak and another technician, Ng Kai-yiu.
Ng was expected to testify for the prosecution against the other 15 former Jacobs China employees who have pleaded not guilty. Their trial was expected to begin next year.
The first to plead guilty, Wong Kwok-yiu, also a technician, was sentenced to eight months in jail in December for two counts of using false instruments.
The court heard Hong Kong’s Civil Engineering and Development Department set up a laboratory to conduct compliance tests on concrete bricks, soil, rock and steel bars for the project, with the work undertaken by the Highways Department.
The management and operation work was outsourced to Jacobs China, where Kwong was tasked with conducting compression tests on the concrete bricks. He reported the results to Mak.
Kwong and others tasked with testing the bricks’ strength would either adjust the time and dates on a machine he used, or replace the brick with a metal cylinder to get a qualifying result.
Mak would tell his subordinates, including Kwong, to “get things done” and “make things right” every time he and the others missed deadlines.
In mitigation, Mak’s counsel, Joseph Lee, pleaded for leniency for his client, saying the fraud was not a money-driven scheme.
“It was only carried out for the sake of convenience,” he said.