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Agency owner hid when irate customers posted her photo, says co-accused

Posted on 19 October 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The two are on a District Court trial at West Kowloon Court

A Filipina being tried for allegedly accepting payments for fake jobs and laundering $700,000 in Hong Kong banks said her co-accused employment agency owner went into hiding when angry applicants posted her photo on social media tagging her as a scammer.

Marijane Biscocho, 44, also said in the continuation of her District Court trial for money laundering, using false trade description and breach of her visa condition, that her Filipina colleague who fled before she and her boss were arrested had played a bigger role in the operation.

In her testimony today, Oct 19, before Judge Kathie Cheung, Biscocho said she learned from her co-employee Nympha Lumatac that the agency owner, Lennis Ebrahim, had gone into hiding in October 2019.

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Ebrahim, 55, owner of WHT Consulting Co that offered the bogus jobs, is being tried with Biscocho on a charge of money laundering and one for wrongful acceptance of payment for a product.

Biscocho faces an additional laundering charge, and 20 of the wrongful payment as she was the one who allegedly accepted the money from the scammed jobseekers.

Both are out on bail.

The two allegedly controlled a bank account with HSBC while a separate one at Hang Seng Bank was in Biscocho’s name. The two accounts were said to have been used to launder the money collected from the job seekers.

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Eleven Filipinos accused the two accused of charging at least $12,000 each for such non-existent jobs as gardeners, drivers, printers and field workers in Hong Kong and Macau for their relatives and friends. The pay offer was $7,000 to $13,000 a month.

However, only seven of them appeared as witnesses in the trial. They were Rosalina Agcalis, Jocelyn Domingo, Nena Castro, Maria Aurora Lagura, Jovelyn Villaflor, Mary Joy Liggayu and Preciosa Abellera

On questioning by defense counsel Phil Chau who showed her a photo of Ebrahim, with the word “Scammer” emblazoned above it, Biscocho said that was posted on social media by the applicants in October 2019 when they could no longer contact the agency owner.

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Biscocho also said Agcalis posted the Hong Kong ID card of Lumatac on social media, calling her a scammer. Two separate photos of Lumatac and Biscocho were also said to have been posted by Agcalis to warn the public about their alleged scam.

It was after Agcalis posted Ebrahim’s photo for failing to appear at a scheduled meeting at the Consulate that the agency owner went into hiding, said Biscocho.

Lumatac, the prosecution had said, later fled to Macau and returned to the Philippines.

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“I tried to go to Lennis’ house to contact her. I went with Nympha. Nympha told me I had to wait downstairs,” Biscocho said, referring to the Kowloon Bay home of Ebrahim. The agency owner reportedly has another house in Baguio Villa, Pokfulam.

Biscocho on her arrest in November 2019

Biscocho said she waited from 8am to 1pm but Ebrahim did not appear. Biscocho said she tried to call the agency owner but Ebrahim had blocked her. Later, the agency boss cut off all her three phone lines, she said.

Biscocho pointed to Lumatac as the one who mostly dealt with the Filipinos who applied for skilled worker jobs offered by WHT for more than a year in 2018 and 2019.

“Nothing to do with it,” Biscocho replied to most of the queries by Chau as he cited pieces of evidence and situations culled from the volumes of documents gathered from the trial.

When asked who handled a job application, made a statement, or communicated online with the alleged victims of the scam, the defendant would say “it was Nympha” or “it was Lennis.”

The seven witnesses earlier narrated to the court how they were enticed to apply for the purported jobs by WHT. But when six months passed and they still had no visa, they began to suspect they were scammed.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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Time to send your Christmas ‘padala’, say door-to-door companies

Posted on No comments

By Daisy C L Mandap 

Asian Dragon's office in North Point is a beehive of activities these days
 
If you are planning to send Christmas gifts home through door-to-door service, do it as soon as possible. This is the reminder from two of the leading cargo companies servicing Filipinos in Hong Kong.

AFreight’s country manager Rosabelle Woolf says their cut-off time this season is earlier than before due to the “erratic schedule of sailing.” She said the two category 8 typhoons that hit Hong Kong last week also caused delays in sailing.

Cora Ong of Asian Dragon says the same thing. “Due to recent changes in the shipping industry, we recommend that you send your boxes earlier than (before),” she said.

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“We are hopeful that circumstances will change. But, it is important to send sooner rather than later.”

Ong says that even when her company gives an estimate of the time the boxes sent from here reach their destinations in the Philippines, one should be prepared to give an allowance of a few more days to be sure.

“We will try our best to avoid delays but some circumstances like shipping line delays are out of our control,” she says.

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So senders should plan ahead and pack their boxes early “to show their love and care for their families”, adds Ong.

She says all Christmas packages bound for Visayas and Mindanao are already "due," while the cut-off date for Luzon is Nov 15, and Manila, Nov. 30. She adds these are still subject to weather conditions and the stability of vessel schedules.

AFreight has posted its early cut-off dates for holiday shipments

AFreight has a later cut-off date for Visayas and Mindanao, but earlier for Metro Manila and Rizal. Its advisory says boxes bound for the following areas should be sent out no later than the indicated dates:

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Mindanao II:                                       Nov 7

Islands, Visayas II and Mindanao:     Nov 10

Visayas I:                                            Nov 12

Luzon B&C/Bicol:                             Nov 19

Luzon A:                                             Nov 22

Metro Manila & Rizal:                      Nov 28

Even after setting down the cut-off dates, AFreight still urges caution, saying these are based on its normal operating lead time.  

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

“We encourage everyone to send their boxes before the cut-off dates in case of delays that are beyond our control,” said the company’s advisory.

Woolf says there has been a surge in the number of people sending boxes home even amid the pandemic, despite the overall decline in the FDH population.

Marami kasing amo ang nag relocate at marami sa kanilang mga helpers ang nag for good na. Hindi na naghanap ng amo,” she says.

(There are a lot of employers who have relocated, and their helpers decided to go home for good. They did not look for new employers).

Woolf says most of those who go home for good prefer to send their stuff in boxes so they can travel light.

Kailangan nilang ipadala kasi mahirap ang maraming dala kung i-quarantine pa sila bago makauwi sa final destination,” she explains.

(They need to send their belongings ahead because it will be difficult for them to carry so much stuff since they still need to be quarantined before reaching their final destination).

AFreight may be contacted through its hotline, 2522 4253.

Asian Dragon's hotline is 2571 2311.

Both their locations and other details can be found in The SUN Hong Kong Services Guide 

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Quarantine hotel rooms increased to 11,500 by December

Posted on No comments

 By The SUN 

Holiday Inn Golden Mile is one of the 5 new designated quarantine hotels

The Hong Kong government has designated five more quarantine hotels ahead of the Christmas holidays, raising the total number of rooms available to 11,500 from the previous 10,000.

According to the government, a total of 40 hotels will provide the available rooms in the next cycle, which will run from Dec 1, 2021 to Feb 28, 2022. 

About 2,000 hotels and guesthouses were reportedly invited to apply to the scheme, but only 45 hotels submitted applications. 

"Upon assessment, 40 hotels, including 35 in the fifth cycle, were selected as DQHs to join the sixth cycle to provide about 11,500 rooms of various types and rates for selection by arrivals in Hong Kong from places other than the Mainland and Macao,” said the government statement.

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Foreign domestic helpers who were vaccinated in their home countries do not qualify to stay in these DQHs, as the government requires them to stay exclusively at Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre or Silka Tsuen Wan hotel.

The government said it may adjust the number of rooms available in the next cycle “as and where necessary.”

The current cycle which will last until the end of November includes a total of 35 hotels, which are mostly low to middle-priced. More of the same will be provided in the next cycle.

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The five additional hotels included in the sixth cycle are iClub Fortress Hill Hotel, O’Hotel, Nina Hotel Tsuen Wan West (Tower 1), Lanson Place in Causeway Bay and Holiday Inn Golden Mile in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Michael Li, executive director of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners, said in a TV interview earlier, “Most hotels (joining the scheme) will be four-stars or lower, as people prefer middle-priced hotels.”

He said his group has been in discussion with the government about the next round of the hotel designation scheme amid concerns about a possible shortage during the pre-holiday rush, when many overseas students return home to spend Christmas with their family.

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The list of DQHs in the sixth cycle and related details, including room rates, can be found here: www.designatedhotel.gov.hk.

iClub Fortress Hill Hotel is also among the new additions to the list

Meanwhile, two new confirmed cases of Covid-19 were reported today, involving a 51-year-old man who arrived from the United Kingdom and a 3-year-old girl who came from Mongolia via Korea.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

Both flew in on Oct 17, and both were found to carry the L452R mutant strain of the coronavirus. The man was fully vaccinated in Hong Kong and was asymptomatic. The girl developed symptoms yesterday.

They took Hong Kong’s total Covid-19 tally to 12,301 confirmed cases.

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CargoFlex HK was bleeding money, says ex-director

Posted on 18 October 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

CargoFlex HK collapsed from heavy financial losses, says ex-director

A resigned director of CargoFlex Hong Kong has told the Consulate in a letter that the beleaguered shipping company was unable to deliver boxes paid for by customers for the past several months because of huge financial losses.

In her letter dated Oct 12, Imelda M. Lansang said she had written the statement “to explain why CargoFlex HK has failed to deliver as promised some 400 boxes sent by its customers to recipients in the Philippines.”

The company’s irate customers have besieged the Consulate in recent weeks to ask for help in getting their boxes delivered, and to hold to account those responsible for the delayed shipments from as far back as May this year.

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Lansang, who used to be  the only Hong Kong-based director of CargoFlex HK, said she gave notice of her resignation at the end of March this year after realizing that the company’s losses were mounting, and that much of the money that was going down the drain was hers.

Lansang attached an audited financial report of CargoFlex HK for the period of Apr. 1 to Mar 31, showing that she was owed a total of $447,368 by the company. The report also showed the company was in the red by $835,628 at the time.

CargoFlex HK's financial statement shows net loss of nearly $900k at end of March

Despite her huge personal losses and even after tendering her resignation, Lansang said she was forced to fork out a further $138,703 to get more than 400 boxes released from the company’s warehouse in Kowloon last month, and ship them to the Philippines.

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She said that after consulting Arlie L. Tero, CargoFlex Philippines’ founder and biggest shareholder of the Hong Kong company, the boxes were sent to Manila with CargoFlex Haulers Corporation as the consignee in the latter part of September.

But the last time she checked, she said the consignee was yet to pull out the boxes from the forwarder as they remained unpaid.

She asked the Consulate to intercede so CargoFlex Philippines would make good on its promise to “prioritize delivery of shipments to each consignee the soonest possible time.” The letter dated Sept 21 was sent to Consul General Raly Tejada by the company’s vice president James C. Pereira.

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But in an interview with social media influencer Raffy Tulfo on Oct 13, CargoFlex Haulers’ Dinah Tero said the reason the remaining boxes were still stuck with the shipping company was because "the Hong Kong partner" had run into financial difficulty.

Yung Hong Kong po dapat ang nagbabayad for releasing, pero wala silang binabayad sa amin,” Tero said. (The Hong Kong company should have paid for their release, but they have not yet paid us).

Tulfo had looked into the CargoFlex mess after a number of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong complained to him about their undelivered boxes. Three of the complainants who appeared on his show said they were given the runaround by company officials when they tried to follow up on their complaint.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

The workers said they had packed and paid for their boxes as early as June and July this year. One said she had filled her box with presents for her young son who was celebrating his birthday in August so it was a big letdown when the cargo did not arrive as promised.

Tero promised that the boxes bound for Luzon would be released and delivered within the month, while those headed for the Visayas and Mindanao would take two more weeks. The three workers immediately said this was the same promise given them before.  

Two of the boxes that were held up for months finally reached their destination
However, in a recent follow-up on the case, the three complainants reported to Tulfo that their boxes had already been delivered, and thanked him for interceding.

That is not the case for many others, apparently. In comments made on the Facebook page of the show, several irate customers complained that their boxes remained undelivered, and hinted that the company had prioritized delivery to the three complainants so as to defuse the tension.

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5 new Covid-19 cases include 2 Filipino residents

Posted on No comments

By The SUN 

4 of the 5 patients tested positive on arrival at HK Airport

Five additional confirmed Covid-19 cases were reported in Hong Kong today, Oct. 18, raising the total tally to 12,299. All five patients tested positive for the L452R variant though they are asymptomatic.

Two of the cases involve Filipino male residents who flew in from Manila. They were both fully vaccinated with Sinovac in the Philippines.

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One of them is 59 years old and flew in aboard 5J272 on Oct 16, and tested positive on arrival at Hong Kong International Airport. The other is 41 years old and came via PR300 on Oct 14 and tested positive on his third day of quarantine at Ramada Grand Hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui.

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The three others all tested positive on their arrival on Oct. 16. They include a 29-year-old man who came from the United Kingdom via Finland on AY101, and two men who both flew in aboard QR818. One is a 48-year-old man who took off from Ghana and 44-year-old man from Qatar.

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The Centre for Health Protection said the Qatar Air flight from Doha has been suspended for two weeks from today, after flying in twice in the past three days, each with two passengers who tested positive on arrival test.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang Kwentong Dream Love

Apart from today’s two confirmed cases, two others who arrived on Oct 13 via QR818 were also found infected on their arrival test.

The CHP also reminded persons issued with compulsory testing notice for having stayed at Golden Glory Court in Shatin on relevant dates that they must take another test tomorrow, Oct. 19.

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Expats join OFWs in raising $20k aid for dismissed cancer patient

Posted on No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The patient (left) receives $15k cash donation from Palma of Social Justice

A cancer-stricken Filipina domestic helper who was dismissed by her employer 10 days after she was taken to hospital for excessive bleeding, has received more than $20,000 in cash donations from an array of supporters, including western expatriates.

A big chunk of the money totaling $15,000 came from donors who responded to her appeal for help in a story published by The SUN and re-posted on the Facebook page of Hong Kong Moms, as well as fellow Filipino migrants.

Officers of the Social Justice for Migrant Workers which collected the donated money, turned it over to C.Z.F. in a meeting in Central on Sunday morning, Oct 17. It was the group which brought the case to this publication’s attention.

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Group founder Marites Palma said the fund came from OFWs and Western families who were moved by The SUN’s report, which one of her friends shared on the expatriate community group’s webpage.

“Somebody shared the report on the Hong Kong Moms page so the group contacted me and transferred money to the account of my group’s treasurer,” said Palma.

She sent The SUN a screenshot of the acknowledgement she sent via FB Messenger to Hong Kong Moms with various amounts totaling $9,300 that were deposited in the account of the SJMW treasurer.

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The rest came from various OFWs who sent their donation through online payment services, such as Alipay and WeChat.

The sick worker was emotional as she thanked the group’s officers, hugging each of them tightly and crying. She said she will never forget their kindness.

Apart from asking for financial help on her behalf, Palma found the patient a place to stay

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C.Z.F. said another OFW support group donated $3,000 but wanted to stay anonymous. Other fellow OFWs sent her fruits and cookies.

On top of all these, Welfare Attache Virsie Tamayao handed the worker $2,500 cash, part of which was her personal donation.

Tamayao also reportedly told her that an anonymous donor who wanted to buy her return air ticket to her hometown of Iloilo City had decided to just give her the cash equivalent of the ticket money.


OWWA's Tamayao also gave $2,500 cash to the patient, which partly came from her own pocket 

Later today, another officer at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration helped book the ticket for the patient for her flight home on Saturday.

Tamayao said wheelchair assistance has been arranged for the patient at Hong Kong International Airport. On her arrival in Manila, an OWWA staff member will help her through the airport formalities.

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An OWWA shuttle will then take her to Sofitel Hotel on Roxas Blvd, where she will be monitored by a doctor during her quarantine.

The OWWA chief said C.Z.F has been endorsed as a medical case, meaning she could be eligible for the welfare assistance program worth a maximum of Php30,000.

“As she is not going to work abroad anymore, we also endorsed her for the Balik-Pinas, Balik-Hanapbuhay livelihood assistance program worth Php20,000,” said Tamayao.

The 40-year-old sick worker appealed for help when she was dismissed by her Chinese employer of just two months after learning that she was sick.

She said she moved in with her employer on Jun 21, but on Aug 24, or shortly after two months, she suffered excessive bleeding and had to go to hospital. She received notice of her termination on Sept 3.

She received more than $8,000 in separation pay, but spent much of it getting follow-up treatment as she could no longer avail of subsidized medical care without an employment visa.

When she sought help from the Labour Department she was reportedly told she could not go after her employer as she had no more sick leave left when she was fired.


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