Asia Television Ltd. (ATV) executive director Yip Ka-bo was handed a HK$150,000 fine in court on Wednesday after he was found guilty of 100 counts of failure to pay his employees’ wages on time.
Yip said he was “speechless” after learning he was spared from an imprisonment term, Ming Pao Daily reported.
The financially-troubled television network refused to comment on the case but said it will discuss with Yip to decide who will shoulder the fine, which is equivalent to Yip’s one-month pay.
Yip said outside the court what is important is not who will settle the fine but that the case is finally over.
A Department of Justice spokesperson said follow-up action, if any, would be determined after studying the verdict.
The Labour Department said the court ruling and the sentence would send out a clear message to employers and the people in charge of companies that they are obliged to pay employees’ salaries within the stipulated deadline.
Magistrate Kathie K. Y. Cheung said the ATV case is a serious one and there were no conditions for leniency.
However, Cheung accepted Yip’s plea that a guilty verdict is already a punishment for someone with a good character. She also said it is unlikely that Yip will commit the crime again.
Cheung said Yip did not jump ship when ATV was struggling with great operational difficulties and he himself was a victim of unpaid wages as he is a salaried director with no shareholding in the company.
Cheung also pointed out that the duration of non-payment of wages, which lasted several months, was considered not too serious, hence the lenient sentence.
She stressed that the court recognized the special nature of the case, and it does not mean the court would tolerate similar cases.
Labour Party legislator Lee Cheuk-yan said while he is sympathetic to Yip for taking the blame for the non-payment of wages, he thought the court should have handed out a jail term, given previous cases in which restaurant owners who owed wages were sent to jail.
It would send out the wrong message to society, Lee said, adding that he is hoping the justice department would appeal.
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