IN THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE
HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION
CRIMINAL CASE NO. 626 OF 2015
REASONS FOR SENTENCE
The defendant faces 1 charge of “Theft” (Charge 1) and 1 charge of “Doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of publicjustice” (Charge 2).
2. He pleaded guilty to Charge 1. The prosecution applied to leave Charge 2 in the court file; not to be proceeded against him withoutleave of court. I granted the application.
3. The defendant was a shop manager. He stole 129 notebook computers (total value: $1.45 million) from his employer.
Summary of Facts
4. The defendant joined Fortress in 1996. In December 2013, he became the branch manager of the Fortress shop situated at Kwong WahPlaza, Yuen Long (“the Shop”).
5. As branch manager, the defendant was the head of the Shop. He was assisted by a shop officer Mr. CHAN (PW1). Both the defendantand PW1 were supervised by a district manager Mr. LO.
6. The defendant was to be transferred to another Fortress shop in Shatin on 1 April 2015.
Discovery of the Offence
7. About 10:20 am on 30 March 2015, PW1 returned to the Shop to begin his shift. Upon entering the office, he found the CCTV systembroken down and the hard disk connected to the CCTV system missing. PW1 immediately phoned the defendant but could not reach him.He then phoned Mr. LO to report the matter.
8. After checking the stock kept in the Shop, a total of 129 “MacBooks” (of various models) belonging to A.S. Watson Group (HK) Limited(i.e. Fortress) were found missing. Their retail prices ranged from $6,688 to $18,888 and their total value was $1,454,247.05.
9. The defendant was supposed to report duty at 1:00 pm. Mr. LO eventually reached him by phone. He admitted to Mr. LO that he hadstolen the MacBooks from the Shop. The case was reported to the Police.
10. About 8:00 pm on the same day, the defendant surrendered to the Police. Under caution, he admitted stealing the MacBooks becausehe was heavily in debt due to stock investment failure. He had sold the MacBooks to repay his debt. He also discarded the harddisk connected to the CCTV system.
11. In his video recorded interview, the defendant explained in details how he stole the MacBooks by using his passcode to deactivatethe alarm system and manipulating staff schedule to facilitate his stealing. He admitted that he started stealing since January2015 (after the post-Christmas stock audit). He also confessed having exploited the “lending of goods amongst Fortress shops” mechanismto cover up his stealing. Knowing that the new branch manager would discover the missing stock, he discarded the hard disk connectedto the CCTV system of the Shop on 29 March 2015.
Mitigation & Sentence
12. The defendant is 38, married and has a clear record. Defence counsel Ms. LAU informed me that the defendant is the only child inhis family. His mother passed away when he was young. His father is suffering from cancer and has incurred much medical expenses.The defendant has been with Fortress for 18 years. He worked his way up to branch manager.
13. In mitigation, Ms. LAU submitted that the defendant started losing money in the stock market around 2006/2007, and ended up borrowingfrom the loan sharks. He became bankrupt in 2014, but the loan sharks continued to press him for repayments. At the time of theoffence, the defendant owed about $1 million and became desperate. He felt guilty for stealing; yet worried about the safety ofhis family.
14. Ms. LAU further submitted that after serving his sentence, it is unlikely that the defendant would be able to work in the “homeappliance” field again. All the experience and knowledge gained in his working life would be of no use. But the defendant is determinedto reform and is genuinely remorseful. At the final moment, he had the courage to shoulder his responsibility by surrendering tothe Police.
15. Time after time, the court has expressed in very clear terms that being in financial difficulty (however serious) is no mitigatingfactor for committing a crime. There must have been proper ways for the defendant to seek help and to deal with the loan sharks.
16. This case is a classic Barrick type of breach of trust situation. The defendant stole goods in stock from his employer. According to HKSAR v NG Kwok Wing  4 HKLRD 1017, if the amount stolen is between $1 million and $3 million, the sentence ranges from 3 to 5 years’ imprisonment.
17. The total value of the MacBooks stolen by the defendant is about $1.45 million. Ms. LAU has tried her best to mitigate on behalfof the defendant by inviting me to discount the figure by about $200,000 because he would not receive his pension from Fortress.
18. It is not an easy task and saddens me to send someone like the defendant, who has been an upstanding citizen all his life, to prison. Considering his age, clear record and his surrendering to the Police, I am prepared to adopt a slightly lower starting point of3 years’ imprisonment. A one-third discount is given for the guilty plea, reducing the sentence to 2 years. Apart from this, Isee no other mitigating factors which warrant any further reduction. I sentence the defendant to 2 years’ imprisonment.