Fake-notes verdict sparks outcry from movie sector

Top News | Charlotte Luo 1 Jun 2018

A film company owner and a logistics worker arrested with fake money used as movie props were yesterday convicted of possessing counterfeit notes, but were given suspended jail sentences.

They were sentenced to four months in jail, suspended for two years - triggering an uproar from the film industry.

The prosecution asked to have all the fake bank notes labeled "props" destroyed. This was granted by Eastern Court Magistrate Cheung Kit-yee.

The props were used in local films including Wild City and the award-winning crime thriller Trivisa.

This is the film industry's first case in which workers were charged with possession of counterfeit banknotes.

Cheung Wai-lun, 47, the owner of Wai Kang Production, pleaded not guilty to possessing 223,000 counterfeit banknotes of different countries - including yuan and euros - on November 3, 2016. Law Yun-lam, 36, pleaded not guilty to possessing more than 9,900 counterfeit notes of HK$1,000 denomination on November 2, 2016.

In handing down the judgment, Magistrate Cheung said the 21 boxes of HK$1,000 props were counterfeit banknotes which looked real. The foreign currency props were not ruled as counterfeit for lack of proof, he said.

She said although Cheung had "honest misunderstandings," it did not make it legal.

Defense counsel Susanna Ku Pui-Fong said Law hopes to receive a commutation of the sentence for assisting in the probe. As for Cheung, he is a respected owner of a film properties company. Ng See-yuen, the chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Filmmakers, appeared as his witness.

Ku said the case was unprecedented, adding that Cheung had made a careless mistake and hoped to be fined or given a suspended sentence. Cheung told reporters that the verdict was too harsh and he will discuss an appeal with Ku.

Ng said the verdict was "ridiculous" and if the two decided to appeal the film industry would give financial support.

Outside the court, Ku said the initiator of the case was Ringo Lam Ling-tung, the director of Wild City, who has used a lot of banknotes props, but was not prosecuted. When asked why police didn't prosecute Lam, Tommy Tse Siu-sum from the commercial crime bureau said they are still investigating.

charlotte.luo@singtaonewscorp.com

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