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Lawyer turns table on employer who had her DH convicted of theft

24 June 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

The employer was accused of 'stealing' the $4k awarded by the Labour Tribunal to her helper
A female employer who caused her Filipino maid to be convicted of stealing 1,700 renminbi in December 2018, was herself accused of owing $4,000 from the helper during a retrial of the case in Eastern Court today, Jun 24.

The two-day retrial of Ana Liezel Berbana, 34, got under way before Magistrate Philip Chan six months after a High Court judge set aside her conviction for theft in the Eastern magistracy.

Employer Wong Ma-nger, who was the prosecution’s principal witness, came under intense questioning from defense counsel Philip Ross during cross-examination.
Wong said Berbana was on her second contract when the alleged theft happened on Dec 21, 2018.  

She said she put in an envelope 4,000 renminbi in 40 Rmb100 banknotes that her elder son Ming lent her on Dec 20, and kept the cash in a black shoulder bag that she left on her desk. Before this, she asked her son to photocopy the banknotes.

Wong said she checked the money twice in the afternoon the next day but did not count the bills. But at about 6:30 pm that day, she counted the money again and noticed that 17 renminbi bills were gone.

Wong said she asked Berbana about the missing cash but the maid said she knew nothing about it.

The employer reported the matter to the police around 10pm that same night and the maid was arrested after the money was found in a black jacket that she had hung on a rod. 

Ross asked Wong why she did not lock up the money in the safe, and the employer replied she did not expect it would be stolen. The lawyer then asked why she had photocopied the bills if she did not intend to bait her maid.
The employer said she had the missing renminbi notes photocopied before putting them away

He proceeded to ask Wong about whether she had properties. The employer said that had nothing to do with the case, but Ross insisted it could have.

Magistrate Chan said the question was valid, so Wong admitted she has properties, seven residential flats and one commercial unit.

During a 10-minute morning break, Wong spoke to her husband who was waiting outside the courtroom despite her still being under oath as a witness.

Ross disclosed this in court after the break and the surprised magistrate took note of it.

The lawyer then pointed out that contrary to their employment contract, Wong made Berbana work for six adults and take care of a baby.

Wong said that was before her elder son Ming and his wife Victoria moved out of her flat on Conduit Road because the wife was about to give birth.

Ross said at that time, Wong sent Berbana to work for her son’s family as well to clean the house and take care of the baby. At this point, the prosecutor warned Wong she had the right not to answer a question that could incriminate her. Chan sustained her.

The lawyer put the pressure further on Wong when he raised the Labour Tribunal case the helper filed against the employer after her conviction. He said she did not pay the maid despite the tribunal awarding the claims.

Ross said Wong paid only $310 as she deducted a $4,000 loan Berbana supposedly took from her. The defense lawyer put it to Wong she stole $4,000 from the maid because there was no receipt for the loan.

He said the employer made it appear that the loan was realized even though, before the renminbi went missing, she told the maid she could not act on her loan request because she would first ask the “boss”, her husband.  

The trial continues on Friday, with the arresting officers and Berbana due to give evidence.

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