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Ylagan’s absence stalls magistracy hearing of jobs scam case

29 January 2017

The first hearing on Jan. 20 of the labour cases involving the alleged recruitment of hundreds of Filipinas for non-existent jobs in Britain and Canada had to be called off after the accused, employment agency owner Ester P. Ylagan, failed to appear in court.

Ylagan was charged with 21 cases of  ”receiving payment other than the prescribed commission” for allegedly charging applicants $10,000 to $15,000 for purported jobs in the two countries between January and July last year.

The cases were filed by the Employment Agency Administration after interviewing dozens of Filipino migrant workers who brought their complaints against Ylagan to the Consulate, which in turn endorsed them to the Hong Kong Labour Department.

Ylagan giving her side to The SUN in June last year
In a reply sent in response from queries from The SUN on Jan. 24, Labour said that it had laid 23 summonses against Ylagan, trading as Mike’s Secretarial Services.

“While the defendant failed to attend the meeting, the prosecution applied to the magistrates’ courts for the hearing to be adjourned as advised by our legal advisor and the application was granted,” the department’s information office said.

“As the legal proceeding of the case has already commenced, the Labour Department will not comment on the case.”

The 21 claimants were just a tiny fraction of the more than 500  people who are believed to have given their trust and money to Ylagan, who for years, had run Emry’s Employment Agency, the biggest recruiter of Filipino domestic workers into Hong Kong.

When she recruited for the fake jobs, however, Ylagan reportedly used Mike’s Secretarial Services, a company listed solely in her name.

More than 100 of the claimants have sought help from the Small Claims Tribunal for a refund of their money, and most of the cases are still pending.

Ylagan has not attended a single hearing of the cases, and a representative has repeatedly told the court that the defendant was in the Philippines for medical consultations.

The officer in charge of the cases has given an ultimatum for Ylagan to appear at the next hearing, or risk losing the right to repudiate the claims.

At Eastern court, Ylagan was again nowhere in sight when the court clerk called out the names of the parties in the cases due for hearing before Magistrate Arthur Lam.

Two Labour prosecutors were initially present at the hearing, listed down as “for mention” of the cases against Ylagan.

Her case was reserved for last, but the Labour prosecutors decided to leave before the penultimate case could be heard after seeing no signs of the defendant.

When the clerk called out the number of the first case against Ylagan, she was surprised to find that nobody was in the gallery, not even the prosecutors.

The magistrate stood up and walked back into his chamber.

“The defendant didn’t come,” the clerk of court said when asked what happened.
Pressed for an explanation, she simply said: “Adjournment.”

The SUN tried to contact EAA investigation officer Pang Wah-sang to inquire about what the Labour Department would do after Ylagan’s failure to show up, but got no immediate reply.

But in the statement issued to The SUN, the Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour Department would like to take this opportunity to put the record straight as regards your report on 21 January, that while the defendant failed to attend the hearing, the LD prosecutor submitted application to adjourn the hearing in accordance with the advice of our legal advisor and stayed in the court room until approval was granted and the magistrate left the court room.”

However, the two prosecutors were about 3 minutes gone when the case was called out after the penultimate case. When the magistrate looked around and saw none of the parties, he bent over and asked the clerk of court, then left the courtroom.

This and another reporter were the last to leave after talking to the court clerk.

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