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Commit a crime in the face of heavy debts

Trades / Industries:

Director Mr Lai was a village-type house developer and a director of an estate agency. His agency had acquired a land lot in the New Territories for constructing village-type houses.


Mr Lai assigned the project to his assistant Clement who held an estate agent’s licence. Clement knew Mr Shum who claimed himself a village representative. They often gambled together and Clement ended up owing money to Mr Shum. When Clement failed to make a repayment, Mr Shum asked Clement to deceive Mr Lai by making use of Mr Lai’s eagerness to get the project underway so that Clement could repay the debts. Clement felt he had no alternative but to do as Mr Shum instructed.  One day, Clement told Mr Lai that Mr Shum, the village representative, had asked the company to donate $500,000 to the village fund. Otherwise, the village residents would object the coming village-type house construction project. To avoid complications, Mr Lai made a cheque to Mr Shum and Clement returned a false receipt on Mr Shum’s behalf.  


Later, Mr Lai suspected that corruption might be involved in the incident and reported it to the ICAC.  After investigation, it was found that Mr Shum was not a real village representative, but only an ordinary villager.


Case Analysis

Clement had been entrusted with handling the village-type house development project and should have cherished the opportunity to show his abilities. Unfortunately, his gambling habit led him to personal finance problems. Driven into a corner, he conspired with Mr Shum to deceive Mr Lai’s company and abused his employer’s trust in him. Clement knew very well that the $500,000 solicited by Mr Lai was not for donation purpose. By using a false receipt to deceive his principal Mr Lai, Clement might be in breach of Section 9(3) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. Mr Shum might also commit a deception offence under the Theft Ordinance for falsely represented himself to Mr Lai as a village representative. 


As Clement and Mr Shum had business dealings, socialising might have been unavoidable. But Clement should have kept a suitable distance from Mr Shum and, above all, should not have had any pecuniary associations so that he would not have to show favouritism, or to get caught in a work dilemma where it was difficult to stay neutral, or to do illegal acts for personal gain. He should avoid engaging in frequent gambling activities with his clients to avoid involving in any monetary dealings that might lead to conflict of interest situation.


Clement would also breach the Code of Ethics promulgated by the Estate Agents Authority for engaging in illegal activities and bringing discredit and/or disrepute to the estate agency trade. His failure to observe and comply with the law and the Code of Ethics might render him not being a fit and proper person under the Estate Agents Ordinance to hold license and disciplinary action might be taken against him.

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