Hong Kong woman conned out of HK$1.36 million by Malaysian firm posing as British sailor under threat from pirates, court told

Lawyers for Belinda Ho Chi-wing file High Court writ claiming she was cheated in a series of payments as she tried to collect a package sent by man at sea

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 11:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 May, 2017, 12:28pm

A Hong Kong woman has claimed she was cheated out of HK$1.36 million by a Malaysian company acting on behalf of a fictional British sailor who needed her help because his ship was under threat from pirates.

The scam, according to a writ filed at the High Court on Tuesday, was uncovered last November when the victim, Belinda Ho Chi-wing, realised Hong Kong did not have a “minister of interior” – a claim made by the company as part of its ruse to persuade her to hand over the cash.

Ho is now demanding restitution with damages, interest and costs, as well as a declaration that the payments made by her were merely being held on trust.

The defendants listed are Kuala Lumpur-based Secure Dip-Sea Security Company and its Hong Kong-based agents Shenzhen FDS Industrial Company and SZ XHT Technology Company.

Ho said the companies had conspired to cause her “loss and damage” through unlawful means, as the payments had been obtained by fraud.

“In these circumstances it is unconscionable for the [company] to retain or deal with the payments other than to repay the same to [Ho],” her lawyers wrote.

Ho’s troubles began on August 20 last year when she made contact with someone named Antoney Richard on an internet chat site.

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They kept in touch through emails, in which Richard claimed he was a British sailor who needed her help to collect a package of his belongings in Hong Kong because his ship was in danger.

The items were to be delivered by Secure Dip-Sea Security from Malaysia, Ho was told.

She agreed to help, despite being asked to pay US$2,250 in advance for delivery charges.

The package was then said to have been held up by Malaysian customs and immigration, which, she was told, suspected her of delivering money from the proceeds of crime or having links to terrorism. To release it, the company said, she would have to pay the British embassy in Malaysia US$7,750 for a certificate disproving any such links.

She was also told to send money to Shenzhen FDS Industrial because the Malaysian tax office had found that her package contained £250,000 (HK$2.52 million), and she would need to hand over an amount equal to 10 per cent of that for its release.

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Ho grew “very scared” on October 17 when she was told the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs suspected her of funding terrorism and would inform the Hong Kong government unless she paid US$22,900 for a certificate proving her innocence.

She agreed to hand over the cash, but was then told the Hong Kong government had been informed anyway, and a further payment of US$45,757 would be needed to cancel the case.

Still the scam persisted, and on November 2 the company said the Malaysian interior minister had sent a report on the whole episode to the Hong Kong “minister of interior”. Ho was again told the case could be quashed only with a further payment, and was asked to send SZ XHT Technology US$55,000 within two days.

She was finally told she would have to pay US$30,000 to the Hong Kong minister of interior or he would come and meet her in person.

Ho finally called police after realising Hong Kong had no interior minister.