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Filipino resident jailed nearly 17 years for trafficking $2m worth of drugs

Posted on 20 September 2021 No comments

By Vir B. Lumicao

The High Court judge sent Benoza to jail for 16 years and 9 months

A Filipino former bartender was sentenced at the High Court to nearly 17 years in prison today, Sept. 20, for trafficking 3.6 kilograms of ketamine in January last year.

Richard Marc A. Benoza, 30, stared blankly at Court of First Instance Judge Audrey Campbell-Moffat as she sentenced him to 16 years and nine months in jail.

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“You pleaded guilty to one count of trafficking in a dangerous drug. You brought in from Bangkok 3,588 grams of ketamine on Jan 24, 2019,” Campbell-Moffat said.

The judge said Benoza left Hong Kong for Bangkok on Jan 22, 2019 with no luggage, stayed there for just two days and returned with a suitcase containing clothes, including women’s wear, and packets of ketamine disguised as dried mango and coconut meat.

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She said the value of the dangerous drug would have been $2,057,200 had it successfully reached the Hong Kong market.

Campbell-Moffat gave Benoza a 25% discount after a persuasive mitigation by defense counsel, barrister Oliver Davies, who said that the failure of others to take care of the defendant when he was young had made him vulnerable to exploitation.

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A kilo of ketamine would draw a 14-year jail sentence, and thrice that amount would draw no less than 18 to 20 years, Campbell-Moffat said. In Benoza’s case, the drug amount he brought in was more than three times, so, more than 20 years, she said.

The judge set a starting point of 20 years and six months, which she enhanced by two years because she said the defendant was encouraged by others to import drugs. She also cited the international element of the crime.

The ketamine that Benoza brought in from Thailand was packed as snacks

Davies said earlier in the session that trafficking dangerous drugs was out of character for his client, who was born in Hong Kong in 1990 to a Filipino couple but grew up with neither parent looking after him.

“When you’ve been left out by your parents, you become vulnerable,” Davies said.

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The lawyer said Benoza was only four years old when his parents divorced and left him in the care of relatives. At age 9, he ran away until he was taken by the Social Welfare Department and placed in the care of his maternal grandmother.

His father, who worked at the airport, had not contacted Benoza, the lawyer said. His mother, on the other hand, had left for Japan.

Benoza was educated up to Form 5 and did well in the school’s international program, said Davies. In 2001, he worked as a bartender in a pub in Exchange Square, Central, and lived with his girlfriend. Then he was enticed by some people to travel to Bangkok.

Davies said Benoza was aware that what he did was wrong but would not talk about the people who got him into trouble.

A handful of the defendant’s relative as well as his girlfriend attended the sentencing.

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Filipina DH who kept friend’s HKID as 'souvenir' to stand trial

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By Vir B. Lumicao 

Maing wants to ask her friend to return to HK and testify in her defence

A Filipina domestic helper who claims that the Hong Kong ID card found in her possession was given to her by a friend as souvenir, will stand trial next month after she pleaded not guilty to a charge of possessing a HKID card belonging to another person.

M.K. Maing entered her plea before Eastern Court Magistrate Andrew Mok today, Sept. 20.

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Her bail was extended until her trial set for Oct. 26.

The prosecution said it will present three witnesses while the defense said the owner of the HKID card found in Maing’s possession is being located so she may testify for the defendant.

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Maing was arrested during a spot check on May 12 after officers found two HKID cards in her wallet, hers and the card issued to her friend.

The helper was also charged initially with breaching her condition of stay by overstaying her visa. However, she managed to prove that she was just waiting for her new employment visa to be released on May 20 and she had an employer waiting for her.

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The prosecution withdrew the breach of condition charge on Aug 23 after confirming that a new work visa was about to be issued to Maing.

It also dropped its opposition to the defendant’s bail application in previous hearings after the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge through its executive director Edwina Antonio told the court that it was willing to shelter Maing.

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Antonio and Maing’s two relatives, who were present in her previous hearings, escorted the defendant to the court today.

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Walk-in vaccination to open to all eligible residents from Wednesday

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By Daisy CL Mandap 

Any eligible person can now go to a CVC and ask for same-day ticket for vaccination

Starting this Wednesday, Sept 22, any eligible person can ask for same-day tickets for receiving a Covid-19 vaccine at any of the 21 community vaccination centres (CVCs) across Hong Kong.

A statement issued by the government today, Sept 20, said those who are issued tickets can use them to get vaccinated in a CVC at a designated time slot on the day of distribution.

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 "Under the new arrangement, members of the public can get vaccinated without prior bookings as long as there are quotas of vaccinations available at the 21 CVCs,” said the statement.

The walk-in system, which was launched on Jul 29 and originally targeted the elderly, was devised to get more people to get vaccinated before the CVCs close by the end of the year.

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It is now being expanded amid a significant decline in the number of people who book appointments for their first vaccine dose.

From a high of about 40,000 people booking appointments daily in July, the number has now dropped to less than a tenth of the figure. Yesterday, only 3,200 new booking were made.

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Meanwhile, 360 Sha Tin residents, many of them elderly, took part in the government’s outreach vaccination drive earlier today.

Participants were provided a one-stop service which included a health talk, medical consultation and vaccination with the BioNTech jab, which were all done at Lee On Community Services Complex in Ma On Shan.

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Showing support for the project was Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip, who said elderly persons should receive vaccination immediately as they are at high risk of falling seriously ill and dying if they are infected with Covid-19.

Nip joined the outreach to reassure the elderly that Covid-19 vaccines are safe 

Government figures show the elderly has the lowest take-up for the vaccine among all groups in Hong Kong, despite repeated assurances that they have no reason to fear serious side effects from vaccination.

The elderly who have yet to get vaccinated are still being encouraged to take advantage of the walk-in vaccination service. They can send someone to pick up the ticket for them, who only need to show a copy of their HKID card.

The same-day tickets will be distributed daily until end of October, from 7:45am on a first-come, first-served basis, except between 1:30 and 2:30pm when the CVCs are closed for cleaning and disinfection.

The last vaccination session will be held from 7pm to 7.30pm.

Starting from November, the same-day tickets will be distributed 15 minutes before the CVCs open, and the last vaccination session will be held an hour before they close. 
 
Persons can collect a same-day ticket at a CVC by presenting their Hong Kong identity cards (HKID cards), or that of a family member who wants to get vaccinated.

The schedule for the second dose is given once a person receives the first dose of the vaccine of their choice.

But bookings are still being accepted on the designated website of the Covid-19 Vaccination Programme (www.covidvaccine.gov.hk) for receiving vaccinations at the CVCs or designated general outpatient clinics of the Hospital Authority.

Any eligible person can also make an appointment for a vaccination directly with the private doctor or clinic under the Programme.

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Filipina resident who came via PAL among 5 new Covid-19 infections

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By The SUN 

The Filipina resident was just on her 3rd day of quarantine at 4Points Hotel when found infected

A 53-year-old Filipina resident who came from Manila via Philippine Airlines flight PR300 on Sept 16 is among five new Covid-19 infections reported in Hong Kong today, Sept 20. 

The Filipina who received two Sinovac jabs in the Philippines on Jun 14 and Jul 12 tested positive on her third day of quarantine at 4Points by Sheraton Hotel in Tung Chung.

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She is the only one among today’s patients whose result for a variant tests still pending. All the rest were found positive for the L452R strain of the coronavirus.

One of today’s patients has no record of vaccination. He is a 20-year-old male who arrived from Myanmar on Sept 14 via flight KE 607. He tested positive while in quarantine at Ramada Harbour View Hotel in Sai Ying Pun.

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Two of the patients are related to each other, and flew in together from the United States on Sept 10 via JL 735 and stayed at Regal Airport Hotel in Chek Lap Kok.

One of them, a 51-year-old female, was asymptomatic while her companion, a 56-year-old male, developed symptoms on Sept 17.

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They both received the e BioNTech vaccine in Hong Kong between Apr 17 and May 26, and tested positive for antibodies on Aug 14.

The last confirmed patient is a 38-year-old man who arrived from Kenya on Sept 16 via QR818 and developed symptoms the next day while in quarantine at Silka Seaview Hotel in Yau Ma Tei.

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He received the BBIBP vaccine from Sinopharm in Pakistan on Jun 8 and Jul 20.

The additional cases took Hong Kong's total Covid-19 tally to 12,165.

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Returning Filipino resident, 2 sisters from Qatar today’s new coronavirus cases

Posted on 19 September 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

The Filipino resident flew in from Manila on Sept 17 via Cebu Pac

A Filipino resident and two sisters who returned from Qatar were reported Sunday, Sept 19, as the latest confirmed coronavirus cases in the city. They took the city’s total confirmed cases to 12,160.

The Centre for Health Protection said all three patients were fully vaccinated and  asymptomatic.

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The Filipino man, 38, and the elder Qatari woman, 26, both carried the L452R mutant strain of the coronavirus. The variant test result of the younger sister is pending, a government information service staff said.   

The Filipino arrived on Sept 17 from Manila on Cebu Pacific flight 5J272 and his specimen taken at Hong Kong International Airport tested positive for Covid-19, the staff said.

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CHP records show the man received two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Mar 23 and Apr 13 in Hong Kong while he tested positive for antibodies on Jul 26.

The two sisters arrived separately. The elder sister flew into Hong Kong on Sept 15 via Qatar Air flight QR818 from Doha and stayed at The Courtyard by Marriott in Sai Ying Pun. Her specimen on Day 3 of her quarantine tested positive yesterday. 

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The patient’s 25-year-old sister arrived on Sept 11 also on a QR818 fight. She was moved to a government quarantine center from her hotel after being identified as a close contact of the older sister. She tested positive there seven days after arrival, the staff said.

The older patient received two doses of CoronaVac vaccine in China on Jul 7 and Jul 28 while her sister had two BioNTech jabs in Hong Kong on Mar 19 and Apr 10. The younger woman also tested positive for antibodies on Jul 7.

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The three new cases took the number of cases in Hong Kong to 12,161. A total of 44 cases have been reported in the past 14 days ending Sept 18, all of them imported.

Block K in Kornhill Estate has been put under compulsory testing  

CHP also said it is investigating an overseas case of Covid-19 involving a boy aged 16 who lives at Flat 9-16, Block K, Kornhill, Quarry Bay. 

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He tested negative in Hong Kong on Sept 4 before he traveled to the United Kingdom on Sept 6 via Flight CX255. But he developed symptoms on Sept 16 and his specimen collected in the UK on the same day tested positive.

He received two BioNTech doses on Jul 8 and Jul 29 in Hong Kong. The CHP said it is following up the case with the British health authority.

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As the teenager spent part of the incubation period in Hong Kong, the CHP put his residential block under a compulsory testing notice.

Tomorrow, Sept 20, residents of Amber Garden, 110 Blue Pool Road, Happy Valley are reminded to undergo compulsory testing in accordance with the CTN, the CHP said.

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A male patient who was confirmed positive for the virus upon arrival from the US on Sept 9 lived in that address during the incubation period before he traveled on Aug 18.

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HK to update jab records of residents so they avoid UK quarantine

Posted on No comments

By The SUN 

Vaccinated HK visitors can only skip quarantine in UK if their birth date is in their vaccination card

Hong Kong is updating its vaccination records to include dates of birth so its fully vaccinated residents won’t be required to go into quarantine if they travel to the United Kingdom starting Oct 4.

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The government said the Food and Health Bureau is working on the update to make Hong Kong’s vaccination records compliant with international travel rules, including those of the UK.

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The UK government has announced that from 4am on Oct 4, the rules for international travel to that country will change from the red, amber, green three-tier traffic light system to a single red list. 

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Except for those with residence rights in the UK, travelers who have been to places on the red list in the past 10 days will be denied entry.

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Hong Kong is currently on the green list, which allows its residents, even those without residency in the UK, to enter. But they must be fully vaccinated with a specified Covid-19 vaccine by the relevant health authorities in their place of origin at least 14 days before arrival to be exempted from quarantine. They also need to get tested on the second day of their arrival.

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Under the new system, the arrivals from Hong Kong must also have their dates of birth shown on their vaccination record to join the “safe list” so its travelers can skip the pre-departure test and quarantine.

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Those who have not completed vaccination will need to undergo self-quarantine for 10 days and get tested on the second and eighth day of arrival. They also need to take Covid-19 tests within 3 days before departure and get another test on the second day of arrival. If they test negative, they won’t be quarantined.

The government said it has been notified by Britain of the changes. 

HK's electronic vaccination cards do not carry the vaccinated person's date of birth

“The Food and Health Bureau is working out the necessary arrangements to add the information of date of birth to the vaccination records to comply with the latest requirements of the UK Government,” the government said.

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“We will announce the details once the relevant arrangement is in place,” it added.

Acting British Consul General to Hong Kong, Tamsin Heath, tweeted on Saturday that the SAR’s vaccine certificate does not meet Britain’s minimum criteria and that the UK is working with the Hong Kong government for a swift solution.

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