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Wednesday, Oct 20, 2021

Legal pair accused of getting innocent man to plead guilty face 7 years in jail

Legal pair accused of getting innocent man to plead guilty face 7 years in jail

Prosecution wants to try barrister and ex-clerk in District Court in relation to HK$1.9 million drug trafficking investigation, and says serious case could see more suspects charged in the future.

A Hong Kong barrister and former solicitors’ clerk accused of convincing a man to plead guilty to drug trafficking so the real culprit could go free face seven years in jail, after prosecutors indicated they wanted the case to be tried in District Court.

Barrister Dorothy Cheung Hiu-wai, 33, was granted bail at HK$300,000 after she was charged at Kowloon City Court on Thursday with perverting the course of public justice. Her co-defendant, former clerk Paul Chan Keung-lee, 58, was remanded in custody.

The prosecution came a week after the Court of Appeal questioned the pair’s roles in the case of Ma Ka-kin, 25, who had his conviction overturned, having spent five years behind bars on suspicion of trafficking cocaine worth nearly HK$1.9 million (US$244,000) in 2016.

The appeal court judgment on August 11 said Ma, a former noodle shop worker, had allowed a friend, Hung Chi-him, to use his address for the delivery of a parcel from Brazil, in which customs officers found 1.1kg of cocaine.

Ma was found guilty by a High Court jury in 2019 of trafficking a dangerous drug and jailed for 23 years, but three appeal judges set aside the verdict, after Ma’s appeal lawyers argued their client had been misled by his original legal team into entering a confession.

A charge sheet said Cheung and Chan had conspired to pervert the course of public justice between January 27 and November 21, 2017, by “falsely representing that Hung Chi-him had never asked Ma Ka-kin to receive the parcel”, and by “stating that Hung Chi-him was not involved” in the case.

On Thursday, prosecutor Irene Poon Oi-lin said the offence was serious and her team could be prosecuting more suspects in the future.

“[Chan] and [Cheung] had actively persuaded Mr Ma to shoulder all responsibilities in the drug trafficking case in order to exculpate Mr Hung,” Poon said.

The prosecutor asked for a 14-week adjournment given the complexity of the investigation, which included reviewing the court files of the drug trial, and objected to the defendants’ bail applications.

Principal Magistrate Ada Yim Shun-yee denied Chan bail, but agreed to release Cheung on condition that she obeyed a travel ban and a daily curfew between 11pm and 7am. Yim also ordered the barrister to surrender her travel documents, report to police once a week and refrain from contacting prosecution witnesses.

The two accused will return to court on November 29.

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