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Burglary charge vs Filipina set for downgrade

24 May 2019

The Wanchai Tower houses the District Court

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina who was set to plead guilty to burglary will now face the less serious offense of handling stolen goods after a District Court judge expressed concern about the original charge.

Merlie Cruz appeared before Judge Stanley Chan on May 23, ready to enter her plea, when the judge said he did not feel comfortable about the burglary charge as there did not seem to be any evidence of a break-in.
After the prosecutor agreed to downgrade the charge, the judge set down the next hearing on May 27, and ordered the defendant remanded in custody.

Corpuz was accused of burglary after some jewelry pieces went missing last year in a flat on The Peak where she was invited by her Indonesian friend to do part-time work for a month as the latter was going home for a vacation, the prosecution said.
The prosecutor said that Corpuz, a helper in an adjoining flat, was even lent the house key so she would have access to the flat.

Police arrested the defendant when the theft was discovered by the owner of the jewelry.
Two sets of jewelry were later recovered from a pawnshop - a pair of diamond stud earrings pawned for $300, and a pair of anklets, for $800. The Hong Kong ID of Corpuz was used in the transaction.

But Judge Chan said the burglary charge was doubtful, citing a video interview with the police in which the Filipina claimed it was her Indonesian friend who asked her to pawn the jewelry.
He also noted that the accused was given free access to the unit, and could not have forced her way in.

Also, during the period in June last year in which Corpuz is accused of entering the victim’s flat, there was no witness and no video capture of her entering the unit.
Chan said if the burglary charge is pursued he would not be comfortable issuing a judgment that would be challenged in the Court of Appeals.   
He ordered a 30-minute break so the prosecutor and the defense lawyer could discuss amending the charge. When the session resumed, the prosecutor said she would amend the charge to handling of stolen goods and may ask the Indonesian to give evidence.   
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