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Employer who tortured Erwiana pursues legal aid for bankruptcy claim

22 July 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

Law has been resisting court orders to compensate Erwiana and Tutik

The employer who was convicted of torturing Indonesian domestic helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih more than six years ago sought leave from the High Court today, Jul 22, to apply for a judicial review of the government’s refusal to grant her legal aid.

Law Wan-tung, who was sentenced in February 2015 to six years in jail for torturing Erwiana but was released after only four years in detention, was absent.


She was seeking to challenge the Legal Aid Department’s decision not to give her a lawyer for the bankruptcy petition she filed on Jun 1 this year to ward off monetary claims against her by Erwiana and another former helper, Tutik.

When Law was convicted of abusing Erwiana in February 2015, she was ordered to compensate the helper more than $809,430. 

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Three years later, Law, a former beautician, was also ordered by the District Court to compensate Tutik $170,000, for false imprisonment and assault.

Law has since filed various applications to avoid paying any compensation to the helpers.


In court today, a lawyer from solicitor firm Ching & Co represented Law and said that he received notice of the court hearing only two days ago. He said Law did not receive the notice.

Justice Anderson Chow told the lawyer that was difficult to accept. He said it was important that Law attends the hearing of her application for a review of the Legal Aid decision.

The judge told the lawyer that the case was arranged for a hearing a long time ago but Law didn’t appear. Then she applied again but no lawyer came to represent her.


“The question now is whether the application is to be granted,” the judge said.

Chow reserved judgment, saying he would issue a written ruling in two weeks’ time.

Erwiana (right) leaving court in 2018 with the Mission for Migrant Workers' Cynthia Tellez

The first time Law applied for legal aid in 2015, she was refused. She applied for a judicial review of the Legal Aid’s refusal but failed. The High Court ordered her to pay court costs of $200,000 to the Department of Justice.

Lawyers for Erwiana told the District Court in a compensation hearing in May 2015 that Law had transferred her share in the $7 million flat to her husband to avoid court garnishment of the property to pay her victims.


But Law, who claimed she had been estranged from her husband, an investment banker, insisted then that she was just holding the flat for their two children.

Faced with court orders to compensate her two former helpers, Law claimed in July 2015 that she had transferred half of the Tseung Kwan O flat to her husband.

But the High Court, ruling on a petition filed by lawyers on behalf of Erwiana, ruled the transfer of ownership invalid in December 2017.

But a month before this, Law’s husband filed another lawsuit, claiming that Law owed him more than $3 milllion, so he applied for a charging order on the Tseung Kwan O property.

The High Court initially allowed the charging order, but revoked it in December 2019 after Erwiana’s lawyers filed an opposition.

Despite the court orders, the contested flat remains in the name of Law's husband and Erwiana and Tutik have been left fending off legal battles so they can get their rightful compensation.


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