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High Court judge typed out theft complaint vs maid, court told

17 May 2018

Judge reportedly typed out the theft complaint by his domestic helper against his other maid

By Vir B. Lumicao  

A High Court judge allegedly typed a statement by his Filipina domestic helper accusing his other Filipina maid of stealing an envelope containing $3,700, the Eastern Court heard on May 15.

The supposed theft victim, Rossini Cagalitan, made the admission during the trial of her fellow domestic worker Marites Canacio.

On cross examination by defense counsel Mohammed Shah, Cagalitan admitted that her statement was made by Justice Jonathan Russel Harris, before it was passed on to the police.

The judge, who employed both Filipinas in his residence on Mt Kellett Road, The Peak, was at the courthouse the whole day, but stayed outside the courtroom.

Eastern Magistracy
Canacio originally faced two charges of theft, including her alleged pilfering of the judge’s wallet which contained $600. That charge was later withdrawn by the prosecution before the case went to trial.

Cagalitan also admitted that Harris instructed her to pack the belongings of Canacio on the day she was terminated and sent to her employment agent on Jan 13.   

“My employer told me to pack the defendant’s things just in case I find my wallet,” said Cagalitan, whose testimony and cross-examination by the defense lawyer lasted the whole day, and was still not finished when Magistrate Cheung Kit-yee adjourned the trial at around 5pm.

Cagalitan was put on the spot when Shah presented her sworn statement in which she said Harris had told her he was terminating Canacio, and replacing her with his former Indonesian helper Jamini, who had returned home shortly after the defendant arrived in the household.

Cagalitan confirmed that the signature on the document was hers, but denied saying that Harris told her Jamini would return to replace the defendant.

“I put it to you that the statement is true and that you are not telling the truth,” the lawyer said.

Cagalitan said she did not notice the questioned part of the statement as she was being interviewed by Harris while typing the statement.

“You didn’t do the statement in the police office?” Shah asked and the witness agreed.
“So you prepared the statement in the house of Judge Harris, then gave the statement to the police?” the lawyer asked and the witness said yes.

Shah told the magistrate that he would like to call the judge to the witness stand, but Cheung said that would be asking him to give evidence based on hearsay.

The defence lawyer again raised doubts about Cagalitan’s evidence when he asked her if she had good relations with the defendant, and she said their dealings were limited to work-related matters as she distanced herself when she suspected her of stealing.

Shah then provided the court copies of Whatsapp messages between Cagalitan and Canacio in which the accuser had earlier asked the defendant to buy $2,200 worth of Googleplay cash card to remit money to her family. The lawyer asked why she had entrusted that much money to the defendant?

In reply, Cagalitan said she was not the only victim of the defendant, adding that Jamini lost $500, Harris initially lost $100, and then $600, when his whole wallet went missing, She said when the envelope containing the $3,700 went missing on Jan 6, she told the employer’s Japanese wife Yuka about it.

On Jan. 13, a day after Harris allegedly lost his wallet, the judge told Cagalitan to help the defendant pack her things, as she had signed a termination letter. Harris reportedly paid the defendant $3,335 representing transportation money and her 13 days’ salary.

Cagalitan said Harris watched while she packed Canacio’s belongings in front of the first floor main door while the defendant sat crying nearby. The witness said Harris then called a taxi and helped load the dismissed maid’s luggage onto the vehicle.

On the evening of Jan 14, police arrested Canacio at the Hong Kong International Airport as she was about to board a flight to Manila. She was charged with theft and was interviewed by the police before being allowed to post bail.

The trial resumes on May 23 with the continuation of Cagalitan’s cross examination and the testimony of the second witness, Mrs Harris.


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