Hong Kong employer who tortured domestic worker Erwiana accused of hiding assets to reduce compensation payment
Lawyers for the Indonesia former helper claim Law Wan-tung signed over her share in HK$7 million home to husband during abuse trial
Lawyers for Indonesian former domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih told a court on Wednesday that her abusive ex-employer transferred her share in a HK$7 million flat to her husband to avoid the helper’s claim for compensation.
But Law Wan-tung, jailed for six years for various assault charges, defended herself at the High Court with a revelation – she claimed her marriage had turned sour and that she was merely holding the flat her estranged husband bought on trust for their children.
Insisting she had not paid a single penny for the property, she added: “I did not deem my husband so kind as to let me have a share in the property under the circumstance that I did not pay anything.”
The jailed employer was back in court on Wednesday to defend herself against a civil legal action brought by Erwiana.
The helper’s lawyers had lodged a legal bid to prevent Law from passing off the flat at Beverly Garden, the same property where the helper was assaulted in 2013.
It arose from another suit, in which the helper sued Law for compensation for her injuries. The suit was expected to be heard next month at the District Court.
Law was convicted in 2015 of 18 out of 20 charges relating to the assault and criminal intimidation of Erwiana and another domestic helper, Tutik Lestari Ningsih, as well as labour-related offences.
Law, who did not hire any lawyers this time, said her husband had been paying all the bills of the flat, which went to prove she was not an owner.
The present suit was brought as the helper’s lawyers accuse Law of removing her name from the property so that when compensation is to be calculated later, the flat will not be taken into account.
Her criminal trial heard earlier that the employer twisted a metal tube from a vacuum cleaner in Erwiana’s mouth, causing cuts to her lips, and punched her so hard that some of her teeth were fractured.
On Wednesday, Erwiana’s counsel, Tony Lo, told the court in his written opening speech that Law and her husband, Barry Tsui Yun-bun, bought the flat under the Home Ownership Scheme in 1998. Both were listed as “beneficial owners”, each owning half of the property.
But on February 6, 2015, just four days before Law was found guilty, Law signed a “deed of separation”, which stated that she would transfer her share to her husband, Lo said. About two weeks later, the transfer application was made to the Housing Authority.
Lo said the urgency showed Law was aware that the helper would be seeking compensation from her.
But taking to the witness box, Law insisted that it had always been the agreement between her and her husband, dating back to the time when the flat was bought, that she was only holding the share for her children.
Hong Kong woman jailed for abusing Indonesian maid Erwiana admits life behind bars is ‘hell’ and still insists she was framed
The woman, whose private life remained mostly a mystery as she did not take to the witness box to testify during the previous criminal trial, revealed on Wednesday that she began to separate from her husband in about 2010.
“Big fights have occurred. We were not on very good terms,” she said, adding that her husband was working irregular hours, which fuelled their disputes and quarrels.
She said although she did contemplate the chance of her being convicted as “great” in 2015, the transfer took place because her son was about to turn 19 years old.
Sooner or later, Law added, she would have to give back her share, so she did not want it to “hang over” her. “I did not deliberately make this arrangement,” she insisted.
She said she had signed the deed of separation, but was unsure what happened to her husband. She said she was therefore unsure whether she was officially divorced or not.
Law, who did not hire any lawyers this time, said her husband had been paying all the bills of the flat, which went to prove that she was not an owner.
Tsui was also named as the other respondent in the case, but he wrote to tell the court he would not participate in it.
According to Lo, the flat was worth HK$7.65 million as of November 1 this year, but Law claimed she had never paid heed to the value of the flat.
It was also revealed that Law had a credit card debt of HK$137,740 as of 2015. Law said even without the helper’s claim, she was unable to repay her debt, and had to rely on her husband to pay for her daily expenses.
Recorder Stewart Wong Kai-ming SC is to listen to both parties’ closing speeches on November 23.