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Employment agency staff acquitted of overcharging

27 May 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Defendant was freed by the magistrate because the prosecution failed to identify her as the culprit

An employment agency staff was acquitted of a charge of overcharging today, May 27, after the prosecution failed to prove that she was the culprit in the case.

But Eastern Court magistrate Dick Lee said defendant Glenda Beranda also owed her acquittal to her lawyer.

“Defendant you are lucky you have a good lawyer,” Lee told Beranda after giving his verdict.
Lee acknowledged that the complainant, Rosita Javier, and Labour Department officer Ng Hon-hei, who acted as prosecution witnesses, were both credible and reliable.

But the magistrate said the prosecution left the offender’s identity issue unresolved, so he gave the benefit of the doubt to Beranda, who worked at the employment agency, Bandung Enterprises.

Javier had complained against a certain “Glenda” from Bandung who charged her $4,450 as placement fee after finding an employer for her in September 2018.
Under Hong Kong’s Employment Ordinance, employment agencies are allowed to charge a commission of no more than 10% of the first monthly salary of a job seeker for whom they found an employer.

But during the trial on May 25, she was barred from identifying Beranda in court as the one who collected the money from her after the defense counsel objected, saying Javier might identify the wrong person.

The lawyer said Javier had admitted to meeting “Glenda” only four times for just about five minutes each time, and the lighting in the Bandung office might not be bright enough for the complainant to have seen the other Filipina’s face clearly.
The court was also told that Beranda did not go to an identification parade at the Labour Department as the office did not have a proper facility for this, so there was doubt that she was the “Glenda” Javier had complained about.

Responding to an application from the defense, Magistrate Lee ruled as inadmissible a statement taken by investigators from Beranda because it was not cautioned.

That left the prosecution with only two pieces of evidence against Beranda, a business card with the name “Glenda”, and a license renewal form that she signed and had her Hong Kong ID card and phone number.  

In his testimony, Ng said the signature on the license renewal document for Bandung was his, but added that he only had “reasonable suspicion” that Beranda was the one who signed it.

However, Lee ruled that the documents were inadmissible as evidence as they did not directly link Beranda to the overcharging case.

After Beranda’s acquittal, her lawyer applied for costs, but the magistrate countered with a question on whether the defendant’s business card might then be allowed as evidence in a cost hearing.

After consulting with Beranda, the lawyer said he was withdrawing the cost application.

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