A senior executive with Hong Kong’s public healthcare system and a doctor have denied stealing more than HK$1,600 (US$203) worth of food from a supermarket, saying they were misled into leaving the premises without paying for the items.
Hospital Authority chief manager Vivien Chuang Wai-man, 48, and Dr Chiu Ming-yu, 47, denied a joint count of theft during an appearance at the Kowloon City Court on Wednesday, the third time since their prosecution in May.
Senior counsel John Reading for the defence said his clients would argue in the coming trial that the supermarket’s self-service checkout contained misleading instructions which had caused them to believe they were not required to scan the bar codes of all products they intended to purchase.
The two doctors allegedly stole a watermelon, a melon, two puddings, two packs of blueberries, two portions of sashimi, a box of sushi and a bag of chicken collectively worth HK$1,632.80 from the AEON store at Whampoa Garden in Hung Hom on April 23.
The prosecution is expected to call three witnesses to testify, while the defence could could call on a character witness on behalf of the pair should the trial magistrate find a case against them.
Acting Principal Magistrate Peony Wong Nga-yan scheduled the two-day trial for December 6 and 7 before extending the defendants’ bail.
Chuang, who works as a chief manager for infection, emergency and contingency at the Hospital Authority, once hosted the daily Covid-19 press briefing with Dr Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the communicable disease branch of the Centre for Health Protection. Chiu is reportedly an orthopaedic specialist.
The case was previously adjourned to allow defence lawyers time to discuss with the justice department about settling the case via alternative means.
Theft is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment, but is capped at three years if the case is heard before a magistrate.