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Filipino tourist wins right to appeal conviction in US$500b fake instruments case

22 September 2020

 By The SUN

Appeal judge found the Filipino's lawyer failed to follow his client's instructrions

A High Court judge has allowed a Filipino businessman to appeal his conviction for passing off US$500 billion worth of forged documents as genuine to a bank executive two years ago.

But David G. Morano, Jr., who was ordered jailed for three years after his conviction on Oct 2 last year, failed to get leave to appeal his sentence.

In his judgment handed down on Sept 16, Court of Appeal Justice Ian McWalters ruled that Morano’s counsel in his District Court trial had failed to follow his client’s instructions in questioning a witness.

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In his application for leave to appeal, Morano said barrister John Hemmings who was defending him, did not carry out his instruction to tell the trial judge during his cross-examination of prosecution witness Miss So that she was not the bank staff he talked to.

Morano said Hemmings stopped him because So was then inconsistent in her statement and the lawyer was apparently waiting for the witness to make more inconsistencies.

Justice McWalters said in his reasons for judgment he saw it “reasonably arguable” that the only proper course for a barrister was to ask the judge for time to talk with his client about his instructions. If the client insists, the barrister must put them across, he said. 

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“Of course, I must emphasize that merely crossing the threshold of reasonable arguability does not mean that the ground will succeed and that even if the Court of Appeal was persuaded of its merit, it does not mean that the conviction must be quashed,” he said.

Morano, who looks middle-aged, was found guilty on a charge of using a false instrument after a six-day trial before District Court Judge David Dufton on Oct 2 last year.

Dufton ruled that Morano knew the documents he handed to the HSBC staff, Miss So, were false and had the intention to induce her to accept them as genuine and do some act to her own or any other’s prejudice. 

 

The incident happened on Oct 29, 2018 when Morano presented the fake documents to the staff in HSBC’s head office in Central.

He also produced a color print of a gold plate and 10 other documents purportedly issued by the Philippine and United States governments and the United Nations to show that he was doing charity work.     

He asked the staff for a certification that he had an account in the bank with US$500 billion in savings to back up his request for funding from supporters of a construction project for charity, the prosecution said.

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After the staff failed to find in the bank’s database the account number that Morano provided, police were called and he was arrested.

The three persons who were with him, Malaysian and Taiwanese males surnamed Tang and Li, and a Chinese female surnamed He, disappeared when the police arrived.

In upholding Morano’s sentence, Judge McWalters pointed out that the defendant was convicted after trial, came to Hong Kong for a dishonest purpose, and could have caused substantial damage if he succeeded.

“For these reasons I granted the applicant leave to appeal against his conviction and refused him leave to appeal against his sentence,” McWalters said, adding that Morano had the right to re-file his case.

However, the judge said that if Court of Appeal finds no merit in his application, it could order that part of the time he has spent in custody pending his appeal would not be counted as part of the term of his sentence.

He remanded Morano in custody after issuing him an appeal aid certificate so he could have legal representation when he goes back to court to challenge his conviction.

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