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Ylagan granted bail after arrest

14 June 2018

By Daisy CL Mandap

Ester Ylagan
Ester Ylagan, co-owner of the defunct Emry’s Service Staff and Employment Agency, was allowed to post bail early on June 9, after being arrested and questioned by Hong Kong Police for about 48 hours.

In an emailed response to a query on the status of Ylagan’s investigation, a police spokesperson said, “the 65-year-old arrested woman was released on Police bail and is required to report back to Police in early July 2018.”

The Police had earlier confirmed to The SUN that Ylagan was arrested on June 7 in Western District for ”conspiracy to defraud” and “dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offence” (also known as money laundering).”

The arrest reportedly stemmed from complaints filed by 210 individuals starting in 2016, alleging that they had been deceived by Ylagan in a job recruitment scam in which each lost between $5,000 and $20,000.

The total number of Filipino job applicants allegedly lured into applying for the non-existent jobs in Britain and Canada were, however, estimated to have been more, with the total amount involved reaching as much as  $5million. The applicants came not only from Hong Kong, but also Macau and the Philippines.

Lawyers acting for the complainants subsequently reported uncovering documents showing Ylagan and several other people close to her had sent a total of around $10 million to several countries as far apart as Malaysia and Burkina Faso. The documents were turned over to the police, along with the names of the others involved in the apparent money laundering scam.

Of the more than 200 Filipinos who sought police help, about 150 have filed claims to recover their money from Ylagan, and their cases are now pending at the District Court where they were transferred by the Small Claims Tribunal.

With help from the Mission for Migrant Workers, the complainants succeeded in getting legal aid to pursue their claims.

Ylagan quietly slipped out of Hong Kong in mid-July 2016 in an apparent bid to head off a possible arrest. Before leaving, she filed a complaint with the Central Police station against a London-based business partner who reportedly duped her of $4.19 million.

Ylagan said the business partner she identified as “William Clinton James” had made her send the money to unknown people in Burkina Faso, on the promise that he had jobs waiting for her recruits. For her effort, she was supposed to get a British passport, 15 plane tickets to London, and a chance to explore business opportunities in the United Kingdom.

Each applicant to Britain was asked to pay $10,000 and $15,000 for those applying to Canada. A leaflet Ylagan had circulated said “any jobs” were available in the two destinations, causing hundreds of applicants who had relied on her reputation as a 30-year veteran of the recruitment business, to swamp her World Wide shop in Central between January to May, 2016.

At the time she remitted the $4.19 million, Ylagan said she had recruited 400 applicants. She stopped when she was asked to increase the number to 650, then 800.

Ylagan returned to Hong Kong in December last year, and offered to return the applicants’ money if she could recover a flat she used to co-own with her husband, Rick Ylagan, who died two months earlier.

She also sought police help again, this time to file a complaint for deception against her erstwhile friend, suspended barrister Ody Lai Pui-yi. Ylagan claimed Lai had deceived her and her son in transferring their Aberdeen flat in the former barrister’s name.

Land Registry documents show Ylagan had bought the flat with her husband in November 2000 for $2.37 million. The property was transferred in the name of their son, Ridge Michael on July 23, 2016, for $2.6 million. Then on March 20, 2017, it was further transferred to Lai for a consideration of $5 million.

The police are continuing their investigation into the cases.
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