Ex-lands boss escapes jail on rental fraud rapLocal | Candy Chan 17 May 2012
A former assistant director of lands, Patrick Fan Yung-cheong, received an eight-month suspended jail sentence for fraudulently claiming more than HK$1.3 million in housing benefits from the government between 1987 and 1995.
Fan earlier pleaded guilty to the charge in the District Court.
District judge Kevin Anthony Browne said there were exceptional circumstances in the case and so a suspended sentence was appropriate.
He also ordered Fan to pay HK$3.68 million, including interest, in compensation.
Fan, 59, applied for a housing allowance five times, the amount ranging from HK$6,500 to HK$25,000, for renting a Taikoo Shing flat. He claimed the flat was not a property owned by himself or his family.
However, the court heard Fan bought the flat in March 1987 for HK$900,000 and transferred the ownership to a shell corporation jointly owned by his mother- in-law and sister-in-law.
The defense said Fan had made full restitution of HK$2,316,000 and is likely to lose a HK$7 million pension on his retirement later this year.
Fan joined the government in 1971 and has served for more that 40 years. He earns HK$126,000 a month and is currently on annual leave.
The judge said the offenses were committed out of greed rather than need.
He said the judgment took into account Fan's guilty plea, his deteriorating health and the fact that he does not have a criminal record.
The judge also said Fan had cooperated fully with the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Fan, who deeply regretted his wrongdoing, is suffering from depression, suicidal tendencies and diabetes. The judge said his physical and mental condition precludes a community service order. Fan was thus given a two-year suspended sentence.
His wife, a former manager at the Bank of East Asia, is considerably affected by the case, the court was told. She retired in 2000, thinking she would enjoy life with her husband, the court heard.
Fan also won support from his secondary school teacher, Lands Department superiors and colleagues who all cited his positive and helpful personality.
After the hearing, Fan calmly shook hands with friends and relatives in the court.