Former Executive Councilor Barry Cheung Chun-yuen, who had been convicted earlier for filing to pay wages to an employee of the now-defunct Hong Kong Mercantile Exchange (HKMEx), has escaped jail time as a local court quashed an earlier sentence and handed out a community service order.
Following an appeal by Cheung against his jail sentence, a High Court judge ruled on Monday that the former HKMEx chairman need not serve time in jail, but should instead perform 160 hours of community service, Ming Pao Daily News reported.
Cheung was previously given a six-week jail term by Kowloon City Court Magistrate Veronica Heung Shuk-han, after which he lodged an appeal.
Justice Judianna Barnes Wai-ling of the High Court ruled in favor of Cheung yesterday.
Barnes said although Cheung lives in a luxurious flat, and was represented by a lawyer, it does not mean that he hasn’t shown “sincere remorse”.
“He lives in Repulse Bay, so what?” Barnes asked.
Senior Counsel Peter Duncan, who represented Cheung in court, said his client is an honest person and that he served in various roles during his public career.
The high-profile case already constitutes a tragedy for Cheung, who has suffered damage to his reputation despite being a winner of the Gold Bauhinia Star from the government, he said.
Duncan pointed out that although Cheung had obtained a huge loan, there was a condition that it must be used to settle the rent arrears of the then HKMEx.
The lawyer went on to explain that Cheung was sued as chairman of HKMEx. It was the institution that owed salaries to employees, and not Cheung personally, he argued.
Duncan said Magistrate Veronica Heung had made a mistake by not giving Cheung a social service order, as Cheung has no criminal record and has pleaded guilty.
Barnes agreed with Duncan’s view points, and said it is reasonable that Cheung’s family members help pay the rent for him.
Cheung’s former employee Raymond Ma Shui-lung, a senior corporate communications manager at HKMEx, said he is not really concerned whether Cheung goes to jail or not, as it doesn’t help him recoup his wages.
Ma was reportedly owed three months of pay worth HK$339,000. He received compensation of HK$70,000 from the Protection of Wages on Insolvency Fund.
Cheung had been declared bankrupt by the High Court with debts of more than HK$100 million.
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