SCMP Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Stiff sentences for nine in silver-trading swindle


A judge yesterday imposed stiff sentences on nine men convicted of a multimillion-dollar trading scam in London silver, saying their crimes had damaged the SAR's business reputation.
District Court Deputy Judge Ian Candy said he would normally have imposed a four-year sentence for the conspiracy-to-defraud offences, but bumped it up to five years because the type of crime was becoming so prevalent.
"Such cases certainly erode confidence in legitimate investments and would be detrimental to the business reputation of Hong Kong," he said.
Police statistics presented to the court showed that in 1997, 28 companies were involved in similar scams, with $35.64 million swindled from 29 victims. But by 1999, the number of companies involved had soared to 105, and 210 people had lost a total of $158 million.
Eight managers and employees of Billion Ray International Ltd, ranging in age from 21 to 47, were jailed for five years.
Tang Kwok-wing, 30, the company's director, was jailed for six years for conspiracy to defraud and dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence.
The deputy judge ordered that money seized by police from the company's bank account, up to $680,000, be paid to the 12 victims who testified in court. They had lost more than $4 million in the scam and would be compensated according to the proportion of their investment, the deputy judge ruled.
The court heard the company, based in the Lippo Centre, Admiralty, had recruited victims as clerical staff. They were told to take a course in the London silver trade and then persuaded to invest as much as possible in the fictitious Loco-London Silver trading, or else face being sacked.
But no trading took place and the firm kept the money from the scheme, which ran from April 1998 to February 1999. During that time at least 46 people lost about $11 million, police said.
Thirteen people were arrested in February 1999 and 11 were later charged. Charges were dismissed against the other two.