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Hong Kong courts

Hong Kong man tricked five government offices out of HK$1.13 million with forged university certificate – and even applied to work for city’s graft-buster

District Court hears Poon Hoi-kan failed to obtain bachelor’s degree in applied science from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – so made his own

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 8:38pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 September, 2018, 11:00pm

A Hong Kong man has admitted he forged an Australian university graduate certificate and tricked five government offices into paying him more than HK$1.13 million (US$144,000) in salary over nine years.

The District Court heard Poon Hoi-kan, 41, even applied for a clerical position at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which investigates fraud in the city.

He was arrested two years later, in December 2015, after the graft-buster rejected his application and later discovered the offences during a corruption investigation.

Now a business development executive with an accounting firm, Poon pleaded guilty on Wednesday to four counts of using copies of false instruments and another two counts of obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception, while six other charges were left on court file.

Defence counsel Daniel Marash SC said Poon was regretful of his “stupid mistake” and had since repaid all HK$1.13 million involved in the case.

“He’s not a bad man,” Marash said, arguing for a non-custodial sentence. “This is an exceptional case.”

But District Judge Pang Chung-ping noted the case involved repeat offences, not a momentary lapse of judgment.

Poon faces up to seven years in prison. Sentencing was adjourned to September 19.

The case centred on a bachelor’s degree certificate in applied science from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, which Poon failed to obtain after his enrolment in February 1999.

Marash revealed his client studied for three years but failed a number of subjects and did not graduate.

Still, Poon managed to get his hands on a copy of the certificate while serving as a clerk with the Education Bureau’s Teacher Registration Team some time between 2002 and 2004.

Prosecutors said Poon covered the name on the certificate with that of his own and created a forged copy dated December 19, 2001.

The falsified document was then used in six job applications made from May 2004 to June 2013.

Poon was successfully employed in five applications submitted to the Home Affairs Department and the Student Financial Assistance Agency.

But his application to the ICAC in 2013 was rejected after he refused to cooperate with the vetting procedures.

Marash argued none of the jobs Poon applied for required the skills implied by the false degree and that his client was overqualified for those positions.

The counsel also pointed out the government employers gave excellent appraisals and that Poon would still be employed without using the certificate because of his outstanding work.

Poon was released on bail while awaiting sentence.