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Ex-DH jailed for operating illegal guest house

03 June 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A former domestic helper told the Eastern Court she sublet her rented flat in Wanchai as a guesthouse because she needed money to support her family in the Philippines as well as herself and her young son in Hong Kong.

Maria Lailani Abad was jailed for 15 months by Magistrate Bina Chainrai on May 19 after she pleaded guilty to charges of breaching a removal order from the Immigration Department in May 2010 by doing business, and for operating an unlicensed guesthouse.

She drew 15 months on a charge of “establishing a business while being a person in respect of whom a removal order is in force” and one month for “managing a guesthouse without a certificate of exemption or a license.” Both sentences were to run concurrently.

The Filipina was arrested in February when two officers posing as guests reserved a room in the guest house in Wanchai by telephone, according to a prosecution report.

The officers talked to a woman on the telephone, who turned out to be Abad, and booked a room for two people for two nights. They then prepared marked bills for entrapment.

At 5:06pm on the appointed date, two officers posing as the guests who made the booking called up Abad and said they were checking in. The defendant met them on Johnston Road and took them to flat 401of the building.

The report said the guest house was a 900-square-foot flat with three bedrooms. The defendant opened the bedroom and showed it to the purported guests.

After the officers paid $510 for their two-night stay and received the room key, they identified themselves and arrested Abad. The woman and a young boy, her Hong Kong-born son, were taken by the officers to the police station.

Investigators said Abad rented the flat, then turned it into a guest house without the landlord’s knowledge. The Home Affairs Department confirmed the defendant had no license to operate a guest house.

In mitigation, the defense lawyer said Abad came to Hong Kong in 2005 to work as a domestic helper but lost her employment and applied for non-refoulement in 2009 and filed a torture claim but it was twice rejected, first in 2014 and then in 2015.

The court was told that she was separated from her husband in the Philippines and gave birth to a son by another man in Hong Kong in 2009.

Her lawyer said Abad committed the offenses to financially support her father in her hometown and her son in Hong Kong.

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