A 49-year-old minibus driver has been arrested for cheating the government out of over HK$150,000 using a concession scheme designed for seniors and those with disabilities.

It is the first case of its kind to have been uncovered by the police. The tip-off came from the Transport Department, who noticed there was an unusual number of senior citizens taking the minibus late at night, Oriental Daily reported.

minibus driver octopus cards
Police arrested the minibus driver on Thursday.

Police belonging to the Commercial Crime Bureau arrested the man in Wong Tai Sin on Thursday and found 21 senior Octopus cards on him. He is suspected to have used the cards around 7,500 times on the minibus while driving the Sheung Shui-Kwun Tong route over the past six months.

Under the Public Transport Fare Concession Scheme for the Elderly and Eligible Persons with Disabilities, the government only charges such individuals HK$2 per trip with cards. The rest of the fare is returned to minibus operators by the government.

Since the fare for the Sheung Shui-Kwun Tong route is HK$22.5 per ride and only HK$2 is deducted from those holding the cards, the government provided a subsidy of HK$20.5 every time one them was read. The minibus driver would have then received his contractual share of the profits.

green minibus
The Sheung Shui-Kwun Tong green minibus.

The arrested man has been a minibus driver for around two years and is believed to have acted alone.

A spokesperson for the Bureau said that the concession scheme has been extended to green minibuses since March. She emphasised that fraud was a serious crime which could earn someone a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.