A Hong Kong man who surrendered to police 24 years after he committed a robbery because he believed the legal system was fairer since the city’s reunification with China was on Friday jailed for 15 years. Taxi driver Yip Wing-fat, 58, was among the gangsters wanted over the armed robbery in a jewellery shop in 1993 in which five policemen and a civilian were injured by a grenade hurled by the thieves. The High Court heard that Yip was due to stand trial with four accomplices in July 1994 when he absconded after hearing a “disappointing” ruling on the admission of evidence that left him thinking he would not get a fair trial. But he changed his mind and turned himself in to police on April 10 last year, telling officers that he believed the legal system was now fairer as a result of the handover on July 1, 1997. ‘Wild West’ pre-Chinese New Year shoot-out left Hong Kong teen dead Deputy High Court Judge Amanda Woodcock, however, dismissed his claim as she pointed out that the handover took place 21 years ago and the system of trials had not changed. The case centred on a violent robbery on February 15, 1993 during which two mainland Chinese men armed with pistols – Wu Nganhan and a man known only as Hoi Por – robbed HK$1.25 million worth of gold ornaments from Emperor Gold and Jewellery shop on King’s Road in North Point. The pair had a lookout, Li Shu-yan, outside the shop and a getaway driver, Chan Kin-man, waiting in a stolen car parked on a nearby street. But their plan fell apart when the three men from the shop failed to find Chan and decided to hijack an occupied truck. A shoot-out ensued when police arrived. Officers fired 13 shots, gunning down Hoi Por, while his accomplices hurled at least two grenades, one of which exploded and injured five officers and a passer-by. When Yip was arrested on July 16, 1993, he admitted to investigators that he played a middleman role – introducing a man named Lee Wing-lee to the alleged mastermind nicknamed “Tai Hou Chai”, who is still wanted by police – in return for a HK$50,000 reward. Lee later helped arrange the getaway car. But Yip argued during 16-day pre-trial legal arguments in 1994 that the admission had been involuntary. Disappointed by the court’s rejection of his claim and knowing that Chan would testify against him, Yip wrote to the judge that he would not attend court because he believed he would not get a fair trial, and absconded while on bail before the jury was empanelled. On Thursday Yip was found guilty of robbery by a jury of seven men, who split 5-2 after four hours of deliberations. Defence counsel David Boyton argued in mitigation that his client played a less culpable role, not knowing firearms or grenades would be used in the robbery, and that prosecutors could not prove where Yip was at the time. In sentencing, the judge noted the case had taken place in the early 1990s when there was a spate of armed robberies targeting gold and jewellery shops, with most of the culprits being mainlanders who would sneak into Hong Kong carrying their own weapons. Activist Joshua Wong has prison abuse claims thrown out The Court of Appeal had found 25 years of imprisonment an appropriate starting point for such robberies, but Woodcock observed that Yip’s accomplices had been given a “quite lenient” starting point of 18 years. She said Yip was just as culpable as the other members of the joint enterprise, since the plan might not have fallen into place without him. Considering the robbery “indisputably very serious”, Woodcock sentenced Yip to 15 years in jail. But she did not factor in his abscondment, since that was not a crime back in 1994. Yip’s four accomplices had already been jailed for nine to 15 years on the same charge of robbery.