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Judge slams police inaction in jewelry theft

28 May 2019

By Vir B. Lumicao
Judge says police should have also arrested the Indonesian maid who stole the jewels pawned by her Filipina friend

A District Court judge has scored Hong Kong police for not taking action against an Indonesian helper who he said appeared to have stolen jewelry pieces from her employer on The Peak which she then asked a Filipina friend to pawn.

Judge Stanley Chan’s criticism of the police came on May 27 before he sentenced Filipina maid Merlie Corpuz, 56, to 10 months in jail after she pleaded guilty to two counts of handling stolen goods, a downgrade from the original charge of burglary.
The judge asked the prosecutor pointedly why the Indonesian, Winarti, was not arrested for her role in the crime while her friend, Corpuz, was charged, when she only admitted to pawning the stolen jewelry.

“Why have the police not taken action against Winarti when it appears she has committed the stealing offense twice? At this moment, the defendant is awaiting sentencing for the theft committed by another person,” Chan said.
The judge said there was no Immigration record of Winarti’s movement because the police did not take action against her. He said she could still be in town committing the same offense on other people.

He ordered the prosecutor  to state in her case report that police had not acted against Winarti.
The judge then turned to the defendant and told her that what he had just discussed with the prosecutor had nothing to do with her own case, which had been amended to handling.

“But if you want to help in the investigation of your friend, please let the court know. It will be to your benefit,” Judge Chan said.
In mitigation, the defense counsel said Corpuz, a widow with three children and seven grandchildren, came to Hong Kong as a domestic helper in 1990 and worked for her first employer for 18 years before moving to another who lived on The Peak.

Corpuz reportedly had a clear record and was remorseful, and got only $100 from hocking the earrings for $800, and $300 from the $2,000 for the anklets. The rest all went to her Indonesian friend.
The judge imposed on Corpuz discounted sentences of 8 months in jail for handling the stolen earrings and 10 months for the anklets, to be served concurrently.

But Corpuz’s lawyer told her after the sentencing that she would be released on May 27 because she had already been in custody for 11 months.
The judge challenged the prosecution’s case against Corpuz, who was first charged with burglary for allegedly stealing a pair of diamond earrings and a another pair of gold anklets from The Peak flat of a certain Ms Li, on Jun 9 and 17 last year.

Corpuz was about to enter her plea on May 23 when the judge noticed loopholes in the prosecution’s case.

He asked why the charge was burglary when the defendant said in her police statement that Winarti had given her the jewelry to pawn. 

The judge noted Corpuz claimed she pawned the items, believing they were Winarti’s.
The Indonesian had invited Corpuz to work for a month in Li’s flat when she went on vacation.

The judge said there were two main set-ups in the case:

First, he did not believe the pawnshop valued the earrings at $100,000 then paid Corpuz only $800 for the pair. He said pawnshops give a high valuation to invite business.

He told Ms Chan he changed the earring’s valuation phrase in the charge to “believed to be worth $100,000” after hearing it was the victim, Ms Li, who gave the value. He asked Ms Chan whether Li had taken out insurance for the jewelry, but he did not go further.

Secondly, the judge asked why the rear door of Li’s flat next to Corpuz’s employers’ flat was unlocked. He said after 6:30 am on Jun 14 when Winarti had surrendered all the keys following her termination, there was no evidence anyone else entered the premises.

The judge asked if Winarti left Hong Kong after Jun 14, but Ms Chan said Immigration had no record of the Indonesian’s movement between Jun 8 and July 8 last year.
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