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Court rejects rogue recruiter's attempt to skip hearings

07 April 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao


A former employment agency owner accused of collecting $180,000 from Filipino jobseekers as payment for fictitious jobs in Hong Kong and Macau, has failed in her bid to skip court, citing the epidemic as excuse.

Lennis Ebrahim did not appear in Kwun Tong court today, Apr 7, for the hearing of two charges of applying a false trade description to services offered, which the Customs and Excise Department filed against her and her Filipina staff, Marijane Biscocho.

Magistrate Andrew Mok ordered a guard to call out Ebrahim’s name outside the court room, but she was nowhere.

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Her counsel then told the magistrate that Ebrahim, who is out on bail since her arrest along with Biscocho on Nov 7 last year, was absent for health reasons. He passed on to the magistrate a photo of a medical certificate sent by his client.

The lawyer also applied for a variation of Ebrahim’s bail conditions to allow her to appear in court only once, supposedly so she could avoid the risk of getting infected by the coronavirus.

In response, the magistrate said he did not consider the Covid-19 epidemic a reason to vary Ebrahim’s bail conditions. He ordered Ebrahim’s counsel to ensure the defendant’s presence in the next hearing on Apr 23.  


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The prosecution had asked for the adjournment, saying Customs was still wrapping up its investigation of eight additional charges against the defendants.             

Mok earlier asked Biscocho, who is detained, if she would agree to an adjournment, but she replied she wanted the trial to go ahead without delay.

“Kasi bakit wala si Lennis? Bakit siya umiiwas sa trial? Dapat siya ang managot sa mga ginawa niya sa kanila (jobseekers)?” she said angrily.
The court heard that Biscocho applied for bail on Nov 22 last year, but her application was refused by the High Court.  The magistrates’ courts have also rejected her bail applications twice, the prosecution said.

The prosecutor said Biscocho came to Hong Kong to work as a domestic helper and was allowed to remain in the city only until Nov 12, 2019.

Biscocho again applied for bail on Apr 7, offering $4,000 and to surrender all her travel documents, but the magistrate refused her application due to her lack of local ties. The prosecution also said there could be additional charges against her.

Biscocho and Ebrahim are accused of operating an unlicensed recruitment firm, WHT Consulting Company, which they used to dupe several Filipino domestic helpers into paying for inexistent jobs in Hong Kong and Macau for family and friends back home.

When the jobs were not realized and the applicants asked for their money back, Ebrahim allegedly moved to a textile warehouse in To Kwa Wan to avoid them.

This is not the first time Ebrahim has been embroiled in alleged illicit operations. In 2016, her employment agency, Vicks Maid Consultant Company, was stripped of its license by the Labour Department for overcharging a job-seeker, and for operating at a place not specified in its license.

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