A former director of a Hong Kong taxi drivers’ group has been jailed for a year over his leading role in a scheme to buy votes for a pro-government candidate in the 2016 Legislative Council elections.
Li Wai-man, then corporate affairs director of the Taxi Drivers and Operators Association, was among 11 people, aged 23 to 54, sentenced at the District Court on Friday in relation to an unsuccessful bid to manipulate the poll in the information technology constituency.
Five others, including four association members, were given three to eight months’ jail for helping Li in the conspiracy. Another five defendants were sentenced to between six weeks and three months behind bars for accepting bribes.
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The Independent Commission Against Corruption initially charged 14 people with 26 counts of fraud and bribery-related offences, but later dropped charges against three following negotiations with the defence team.
Seven of the remaining 11, including 54-year-old Li, pleaded guilty to their respective charges at various stages of the trial, which began in May. The other four were convicted last month after trial.
The conspiracy dates back to April 2016, when Li instructed the association’s vice-secretary, Yeung Yiu-hung, to explore ways to enable its members to vote in one of the election’s 29 functional sectors.
Yeung discovered they could rig the IT constituency by registering with the Hong Kong chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) using forged resumes.
The aim was to back tech executive and Legco hopeful Eric Yeung Chuen-sing, who was seeking to topple incumbent opposition lawmaker Charles Mok of the Professionals Guild group.
Upon learning Li’s plan, Lui Ah-fook, then an executive committee member, and his younger sister and son, Lui Wai-fong and Lui King-yin, began offering HK$1,000 (US$129) each to relatives and friends to join the scheme. The money came from a lump sum paid to the association, though its source remains unknown.
The personal details of 36 participants, including the Luis and their associates, were sent to Poon Sau-fong, a former clerk of the association. She then applied for IEEE membership on behalf of the 36 and 204 others, including Li, Yeung and herself.
The 36 were paid the HK$1,000 on May 21, 2016 after applying with election authorities to vote in the IT constituency. Li instructed them to vote for Yeung, or “the one who is not Charles Mok”.
Mok ultimately won the race, with 6,253 votes to Yeung’s 3,425.
Li pleaded guilty in May to a count of conspiracy to engage in corrupt conduct at an election by offering an advantage to others and another of conspiracy to defraud, while Yeung and Poon admitted the fraud charge.
Lui Ah-fook pleaded guilty to two corruption charges, namely, offering and accepting an advantage. His sister and son also pleaded guilty to the charge related to offering an advantage.
Of the five remaining defendants, only construction worker Chan Ki-nam pleaded guilty to the charge of accepting an advantage. The other four – students Chan Wing-hang, Kwok Ka-kin and Lim Chak-him, and barber assistant Ng Ka-ho – were found guilty after trial.
On Friday, Judge Katherine Lo Kit-yee handed Li the heaviest sentence for his leading role in the scheme. She jailed Yeung and Poon for eight months and seven months for similar reasons.
Lui Ah-fook was given seven months behind bars, whereas his younger sister and son were imprisoned for 3½ months and three months, respectively.
Chan Wing-hang was jailed for three months, and Chan Ki-nam for 11 weeks. Ng will serve eight weeks behind bars, whereas Kwok and Lim were given the shortest jail terms at six weeks each.
The three Luis, the two Chans and Ng were additionally fined between HK$700 and HK$1,000, which represented the actual amounts they had received in the scheme.
Offering and accepting bribes in an election is punishable by seven years’ imprisonment and a HK$500,000 fine under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance. Conspiracy to defraud carries a maximum jail sentence of 14 years, but is capped at seven years at the District Court.