Villagers, developer jailed for small house scam

Local | 4 Dec 2015 7:35 pm

The District Court gave 11 Sha Tin villagers and a developer jail sentences ranging from two and a half to three years for deceiving the Lands Department over the construction of small houses.

The indigenous villagers were earlier convicted of secretly selling their right to build small houses to the developer between 2008 and 2011.

The developer then used their names to apply for a construction license, and built the houses on his own land. Each villager was paid HK$150,000 to HK$250,000 in return.

During mitigation, the defendants' lawyer claimed that the practice was common and many villagers did not know it was illegal.

But in sentencing, Judge Sham Siu-man said he had no idea whether it was a common practice. But he said the small house policy relied on the honesty of villagers.

He also said this case clearly showed the policy isn’t working, as the villagers had no intention to abide by the law because they wanted only to sell their rights for money.

The judge also noted that details of the relevant transactions would be made public in the land registry. Cases like this would destroy the public's confidence in the system and that's why a deterrent sentence was necessary, the judge said.—RTHK

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