Co-owner of Hong Kong travel agency that left Filipinos stranded for Christmas refuses to answer police questions
Peya Travel co-owner Rhea Donna “Yan Yan” Boyce invited to make a statement but declines to disclose anything
A co-owner of a Hong Kong travel agency that left almost 600 Filipino domestic workers in the lurch for Christmas refused to answer police questions on Saturday.
The lack of cooperation from Peya Travel co-owner Rhea Donna “Yan Yan” Boyce raised fresh questions about why her business was suddenly unable to honour hundreds of air tickets sold to helpers to get them home for the Christmas break.
It comes despite a meeting between Boyce and the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong on Thursday in which a diplomatic source described the co-owner’s tone as contrite.
Police officers invited Boyce to make a voluntary statement, not under caution, on Saturday. Boyce turned up with her legal representative but “refused to answer questions”, the source, who was familiar with the investigation, said.
On Sunday Hong Kong police then met consular officials to gather information on Boyce.
A police probe was launched on Friday, five days after the first cases surfaced of Filipinos discovering that their air tickets from the agency, which is popular with domestic helpers, were worthless.
Scores of helpers turned up at Hong Kong International Airport last week only to discover that their bookings, supposedly made with several airlines, did not exist, despite them having forked out up to HK$4,300 for a plane ticket home.
The cases soon multiplied. By Tuesday, the travel agency’s shop in Central was under siege from angry, confused and scared helpers who feared they would miss Christmas at home with their families.
Philippine consulate officials managed to haul in Boyce on Thursday to explain.
Boyce, a Philippine national who ran the business with her Australian partner, Peter, pledged to straighten things out and refund the money to several hundred helpers.
A police source said officers had approached the consulate on Sunday morning to secure more information on the case, and officers would soon take statements from more than 40 domestic workers who had reported their losses to police.
Hong Kong flight ticket fiasco means heartbreaking Christmas disappointment for young sons of Filipino domestic helper
“We believe the consulate might have had contact ... with the travel agency before. So we hope to gather more information,” the source said.
Crime squads from Central police station launched the probe after the consulate and Hong Kong’s travel agency watchdog sent letters to the city’s police commissioner requesting a thorough investigation.
Some 583 people had come forward as of Sunday as victims of the travel agency, according to the consulate.
More than 100 helpers had taken advantage of free air tickets offered by Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, some paid for by the Philippine government, to compensate for their losses. But the low take-up on the offer brought hope that the majority of victims, feared to number up to 1,000, had managed to deal with the situation by themselves.
A Philippine government official, cited by local media earlier in the week, said authorities there had spoken to the country’s federal law enforcement agency, which had pledged to arrest the travel agency boss and anyone else found responsible.
That would mean that should Boyce set foot in the Philippines, she could be arrested.