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Labatt decries dropping of labor cases vs Ylagan

15 July 2019


By Vir B. Lumicao

Ylagan in photo taken after
her return to HK in Dec 2018
Former recruitment agent Ester P. Ylagan, who is accused of collecting millions of dollars from about 500 Filipino job applicants, has gotten away from 23 charges of  collecting excessive commission when labour prosecutors withdrew the charges against her.

Magistrate Peter Yu Chun-cheung approved the dropping of the charges at the request of prosecutors when the case was heard at Eastern Court for the fifth time on Jul 12.

The prosecutors said that they had decided to withdraw the charges “to avoid jeopardizing possible action to be taken by the police”.  

A statement sent by the Labour Department to The SUN said Ylagan had been arrested by the police for suspected involvement in more serious offences arising from the alleged job scam, and had subsequently gone bankrupt.

The cases stemmed from complaints filed in mid-2016 by about 200 Filipino job applicants from Hong Kong, Macau and the Philippines, who claimed to have paid Ylagan between $10,000 and $15,000 each for non-existent jobs in Britain and Canada.  

Outgoing Labor Attaché Jalilo dela Torre deplored labour’s action, saying the withdrawal of the cases filed by the Employment Agency Administration sends a chilling message that the interests of foreign helpers here are not Hong Kong’s concern.

 
Outgoing Labatt says the dropping of charges sends 'chilling' message
It is sad that in a case which victimized hundreds of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong, the EAA has decided this way. There is ample evidence showing the owner of this agency committed a criminal offence by charging placement fees in amounts way above what is allowed by Hong Kong law,” Labatt  Dela Torre said.

“The EAA’s decision sends a chilling message to the community of 340,000 foreign domestic helpers—that your interests and the need to protect them are not our (Hong Kong’s) priority,” he said.
“This flies in the face of the oft-repeated exhortation that foreign domestic workers are important to Hong Kong. In this case, the EAA seems to be telling the community they are not important,” Dela Torre said.

Consul Paulo Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, said they will now press Hong Kong justice officials to speed up the filing of fraud and money laundering cases against Ylagan. 

Ylagan, along with her solely owned company, Mike’s Secretarial Services, was originally charged by the EAA with 23 counts of “receiving payment other than the prescribed commission” under the Employment Ordinance.
Ylagan also co-owned Emry’s Service Staff Employment Agency, which at the time of the filing of cases against her, was the biggest recruiter of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong.

More than 200 of her alleged victims had sued her in the Small Claims Tribunal in August 2016 to get back their money. About a dozen had won their claims, until the Tribunal decided to consolidate the remaining cases, and passed them on to the District Court for adjudication. They have remained there since. (https://www.sunwebhk.com/search?q=ester+ylagan)



Ylagan pre-empted the filing of complaints against her by going to the police in May 2016 to say that she herself had been a victim of a Britain-based job recruiter. She claimed she had lost  $4.2 million to this recruiter, which included money paid her by her applicants, in effect admitting she had violated the law against overcharging.

But it was only in June this year that police arrested Ylagan on suspected fraud and money laundering, along with her former friend and adviser, suspended barrister Ody Lai.

Police say the cases against the two have already been elevated to the Department of Justice for evaluation and possible prosecution in court.
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