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Judge reserves judgment on theft case vs Filipino tourists

26 March 2019

District Court


By Vir B. Lumicao

A District Court judge will decide on Apr 30 on the case of five Filipino tourists charged in connection with a botched pickpocketing incident in the MTR station in Central nearly a year ago.

Judge David Dufton made the announcement after listening to the lawyers’ submissions on the case on Mar 25.

Defendants Zenaida Aviles, Rasim Linambos, Arlene Gerodias, Manuelito Camacho and Delia Tagalo were arrested on suspicion of trying to pick the wallet of a Korean female tourist while on a train from Admiralty to Central on Apr 24 last year.

They have been in detention since their arrest.

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Their trial, which began on Feb 11, was supposed to finish in five days, but it was stretched for another day as barrister Andrew Raffell, the defense lawyer representing Aviles, insisted police had not positively identified the defendant.

But according to prosecutor Bina Sujanani, the five defendants knew each other and had tried to carry out the theft in April last year. An undercover police officer noticed them going up and down the escalators in the MTR station in Wanchai and alerted nine other officers.

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The suspects then reportedly went out of the station and boarded a tram to Central. They got off at the Bank Street stop and walked towards World-Wide House looking for a target, unaware that the police were following them.

The group walked to the MTR Central station, where they spotted a Korean woman with a backpack who was with a male companion.

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The officer shadowing the defendants said they sandwiched the pair down the escalator to the Tsuen Wan trains with Gerodias and Camacho ahead of the target and Aviles directly behind her, screened by Linambos and Tagalo.

Gerodias and Camacho reportedly blocked the woman near the bottom of the escalator while Aviles unzipped her backpack and pulled out her wallet but found it chained to the bag, so she dropped it.

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At that juncture, the officer identified himself and radioed his colleagues. The defendants scattered and boarded the departing Tsuen Wan train. The officer followed Aviles into the train and arrested her while the other officers pounced on the rest of the suspects in Admiralty station.

Raffell, in his submission, said Aviles was the wrong woman as the officer on the escalator had only identified her by her hair. He also asked where were the “two unknown passengers” who the officer said saw Camacho and Gerodias block the target.

Barrister Maurice Peter Tracy, for Linambos, said there was no attempted theft at all and that the suspects were plain tourists.

Another barrister, Sean Kelly, said the evidence against his client was not solid as the officer on the escalator did not see Gerodias on the escalator.

He challenged the identification of his client as one of the suspects and dismissed the prosecution’s claim that the alleged offense was a joint enterprise.

The lawyers of defendants Camacho and Tagalo did not make any submission.

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