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DH denies theft of employer’s tourmaline ring as trial gets underway

25 December 2020

 By Vir B. Lumicao 

The court heard the police got an incomplete video from the scene of alleged theft

A Filipina domestic helper pleaded not guilty yesterday, Dec 23, at the start of her trial on a charge of stealing a tourmaline ring valued at $100,000 in September from her socialite female employer in Stanley.

The defendant, L.V. Narcelles, 37, was barely two weeks in her new job when she was accused by her employer, Chua Eh-fong, of taking the ring between Aug 27 and Sept 9 this year.

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She was the fifth worker in the household, where there were three other helpers and a female driver.

Chua Eh-fong, identified by local media as Cai Yifeng (her Putonghua name), wife of former ATV executive director Sheng Pinru, took the witness stand when the trial presided by Magistrate David Cheung got underway.

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The employer said she discovered on Sept 9 that her ring had been stolen, when she asked the Filipina to bring out her luggage for a cursory check before leaving her house in Regalia Bay after her dismissal.

Chua said she fired the helper, who joined her household only on Aug 26 on a monthly salary of $6,000, after the helper damaged some expensive silverware and Versace tableware while doing the dishes. 

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She also accused the helper of staining her expensive clothes and bra during washing.

The arresting officer took the witness stand today for the prosecution. He said he arrived at the scene after Chua reported the theft. He said he relied on Chua’s statement and the CCTV footage that the employer supplied the police three days after the incident.

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He said there was no CCTV footage in the masters’ bedroom and a China-made CCTV next to the printer in the dining room was reportedly working.

The defense lawyer asked the officer why it took three days before he was able to obtain the CCTV footage. The officer replied that he asked for the video three times but Chua reportedly said the footage was not yet ready.

When Chua finally supplied the video, it was only 10 minutes long and showed the point when Narcelles brought out her three suitcases to the dining area up to when the ring fell out of a white paper bag when Chua asked the helper to pour out its contents.

The footage stopped where the helper was still kneeling on the floor crying as she talked to her former employer, Portia Cheung, about the discovery of the ring in her luggage.

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The officer said he expected the full footage but was told by the employer that she was still trying to retrieve it with the help of her husband.

This afternoon, when it was Narcelles’ turn to give evidence, the prosecutor grilled her about the events leading up to the allegation, including her Whatsapp text messages and calls to Cheung shortly after her arrival at Chua’s house and when she was accused of theft.

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She said on Sept 7, Chua accused her and another co-helper of causing the scratches on the expensive tableware. She answered back, telling the employer to check the CCTV to find out for herself who was responsible. Then the boss also accused her of staining her clothes and bra.

Narcelles said she called up Cheung for advice and the latter told her to tell the agency. The former also told her she should not pay because the things were not damaged.

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At 5pm on Sept 8, Chua told Narcelles that she was terminating her contract after one month. Then she changed her mind at 9pm and told her to pack up her things and leave. Shortly later, the employer told the helper to leave in the morning after Chua had checked her luggage.

When the lawyer played back the video of the helper opening her luggage, Narcelles broke into tears when the footage got to the point where the ring fell out of the paper bag and she picked it up and held it in her palm.

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Magistrate Cheung gave her a 5-minute break to calm down as he would not allow her evidence to proceed. When she had sobered up, the defense lawyer asked her if she knew how much a tourmaline, a peridot or a diamond would cost, Narceles said no. 

When her testimony was over, the defense lawyer said Narcelles’ former employer was going to testify for her but there was little time left for the day. Magistrate Cheung adjourned the hearing until Dec 31.

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