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Suspended barrister Ody Lai arrested for alleged fraud conspiracy, money laundering

04 October 2018

Lai in a recent photo on Facebook
By The SUN

Suspended Filipino barrister Ody Lai Pui-yim has been arrested by Hong Kong police for her suspected involvement in Hong Kong’s biggest job scam that victimized hundreds of Filipino workers two years ago, and in alleged money laundering relating to the case.

Lai’s arrest on Aug. 30 at Chek Lap Kok airport where she had apparently flown from Manila, was confirmed by the Police Public Relations Bureau to The SUN earlier today.

“Upon investigation by the Regional Crime Unit of Hong Kong Island, a 56-year-old foreign woman was arrested for ‘conspiracy to defraud’ and ‘dealing with property known or believed to represent proceeds of an indictable offense (also known as money laundering) at the Hong Kong International Airport on August 30,” a PPRB spokeswoman said in a message.

She said Lai was allowed to post bail and was told to report back to police in mid-October while the complaints against her are being investigated.

Consul Paulo Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, said they had been informed about Lai’s arrest “sometime last month.”

He said that as far as he knew, part of Lai’s bail condition was that she could not travel outside Hong Kong without getting permission from the police.

Ylagan and Lai at a party in Dec 2017
Lai had left for the Philippines shortly after the arrest of her erstwhile friend and former employment agency owner Ester P. Ylagan on June 7 this year, on the same charges.

Lai is suspected of involvement in Ylagan’s alleged recruitment of about 600 Filipinos in Hong Kong, Macau and the Philippines, for non-existent high-paying jobs in Britain and Canada in 2016.

Ylagan, who used to co-own and control Emry’s, the biggest recruiter of Filipino domestic workers for Hong Kong, was accused of charging $10,000 per applicant for jobs in Britain, and $15,000 for Canada.

The two women are also suspected of involvement in the transfer of around $10 million to several countries as far apart as MalaysiaTurkey and Burkina Faso at about the same time. Documents showing the transfer were reportedly unearthed by lawyers looking into the recruitment scam, and turned over to police.

Ylagan, who fled to the Philippines after the case unraveled in mid 2016, was allowed to post bail after her arrest, but was ordered to report back to police every few months while the case against her was being investigated.

She is apparently unable to leave Hong Kong while the investigation is being carried out because the Philippine government has cancelled her passport.

Six months before her arrest, Ylagan returned to Hong Kong to file a complaint with the police against Lai for allegedly using deception to obtain a flat she owned. Lai allegedly convinced Ylagan to transfer ownership of the flat to her son, while the barrister was supposed to sell it for them to settle the job applicants’ claims.

Instead, Ylagan’s son Ridge Michael was allegedly convinced by Lai to transfer the flat’s ownership in her name so she could sell it.

“In November 2017, I asked my son what happened to the property and he told me it was transferred to Ody because he does not know how to sell the property,” said Ylagan in her complaint.

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.

Market listings at the time of the sale showed a similar flat being sold for $6.5 million.

In her complaint, Ylagan also accused Lai of advising her to hide in the Philippines and not communicate with anyone while the barrister, who was then already under a four-year suspension for malpractice, sorted out her case.

Ylagan also accused Lai of draining her Mandatory Provident Fund, on the pretext that the money would be used for her legal defense. Ylagan said she later found out that she was not provided any legal representation in her absence.

Further, Ylagan said she learned Lai had already been suspended from practicing as a barrister.

The next hearing of the consolidated claims against Ylagan and her two defunct companies, Emry’s and Mike’s Secretarial Service, is set for Oct 26 at the District Court. Claimants who have been granted legal aid are expected to seek a court order attaching the disputed Aberdeen flat to satisfy their claims.
Meanwhile, Consul Saret said other victims of the recruitment scam should go to ATN so they can be assisted in giving their statements to police if they have not yet done so.

Saret said the investigation is being hampered by the difficulty of locating the complainants against Ylagan so they can give supplementary statements. Many of the complainants have apparently gone home for good, or found employment in other countries. Others have simply lost interest.

So far, more than 100 complainants have already given additional statements, but at least 200 others who had filed cases at the Small Claims Tribunal are being sought. These include those who were recruited in the Philippines through their relatives or friends in Hong Kong.

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