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DH acquitted of illegal work over 'doubts' in evidence

17 November 2016

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina domestic helper was cleared of a charge of breaching her condition of stay on Monday, Nov 13, by a Shatin magistrate who said prosecutors failed to prove beyond doubt that she worked in her employer’s food shop in Tsuen Wan.
Tsuen Wan court where the case was heard
Corazon Quintos wept after Magistrate Lam Tsz-kan pronounced his verdict, which climaxed a two-day trial in which the prosecution called two male witnesses and the defendant herself took the witness stand.
According to the prosecution, Quintos was arrested on Aug. 4 during a joint operation by the Immigration and Labour Departments targeting illegal work.
Labour inspectors Kwok and Fong testified that at two different times of the day they each posed as customers at stall No 10 in Tai Wo Hau market, and were served by the same defendant.
Kwok said he went to the market at about 11am and saw a non-Chinese woman standing in food stall No 10 and extending her arm into shop No 11. He identified the woman as Quintos, who he said was talking to two Chinese women.
Fong, pretending to be a customer, asked the defendant for the price of the fish ball and reportedly replied in Chinese: “$10 for a pound, $20 for two pounds.”
He asked for two pounds of fish ball and the defendant weighed and packed the food item in a plastic bag. Kwok then handed her a $100 bill, and Quintos allegedly put the money in a plastic box, took four $20 bills and handed the change to the officer.
The officer said he was in the shop for 3-4 minutes of transaction, then left and called his commanding officer to report.
Asked by the defense counsel why Kwok did not check the woman’s identity and arrest her outright, he said he was only assigned to disguise as a customer and report to his superior if he saw a suspected illegal worker.
At 2:11pm on the same day, Labor inspector Fong went to the wet market to validate the report and observed the woman in stall No 10. He said he noticed the woman talking to a Chinese woman in the adjoining stall No 11, who turned out to be her employer.
Posing as a customer, Fong went to the store and was also allegedly served by Quintos, who spoke Chinese while attending to him.
The inspector said he bought five items including fish ball, bean curd rolls and bean curd cakes. He said Quintos served him, took the payment and put it in the plastic box.
Fong also said he did not arrest the Filipina outright and instead contacted his superior, who was with his teammates in a vehicle parked outside the market, to conduct the arrest.
At the witness stand, Quintos firmly denied she went to the market in the morning. She also denied she spoke Chinese, saying she learned only a few words while going to the market for her previous employer.
She said she was in shop No 10 that afternoon to pick up her food that her employer prepared for her.   
Lam said the two prosecution witnesses were credible and reliable, but the defense had cast doubt on their case for not arresting Quintos on the spot while she was serving them.
In acquitting Quintos, Lam said he found the prosecution did not prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Quintos had been working in Hong Kong for 24 years.

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